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The Reagan EraA History of the 1980s$
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Doug Rossinow

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169882

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169882.001.0001

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The Election of Willie Horton

The Election of Willie Horton

(p.241) Thirteen The Election of Willie Horton
The Reagan Era

Doug Rossinow

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on the events surrounding the 1988 presidential elections. Despite the palpable sense of exhaustion with Reagan and conservatism he had championed, his vice president, George H. W. Bush won the 1988 elections with a campaign that smothered a brewing backlash against Reaganite economics. Bush effectively took Reagan off the ballot, and began to alter American conservatism by amplifying concerns which, while they had been components of Reaganite governance up to 1988, had received less attention than questions of economics and foreign policy. Bush focused on local controversies that were freighted with symbolic significance and that served to discredit the Democratic nominee, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. Bush’s campaign set the stage for what would become known, in the 1990s, as the “culture wars,” a political era dominated by polarizing controversies relating to race, sex, crime, and patriotism. In this way, Bush lifted the most divisive and emotionally volatile elements of Reaganism out of the realm of undercurrents and secondary themes, and fashioned them into the central thrust of a retooled conservatism.

Keywords:   Reaganite economics, George H. W. Bush, presidential elections, Reaganism, American conservatism, culture wars

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