This introductory chapter provides an overview of Ronald Reagan and Reaganism in the 1980s. Reagan belongs to a select group of political leaders, which includes Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, whose names became watchwords for political creeds and stances toward society, even toward the world. Reaganism was a particular variety of American conservatism that had its heyday in the 1980s. While none of its basic features were new in the 1980s, these elements came together in a specially cohesive and potent way in response to the era’s political and social circumstances, forming a political identity that was also fueled and shaped by Reagan’s success. Reaganism’s core components include an insistence that unfettered capitalism is both socially beneficial and morally good; a fierce patriotism that waves the flag, global military supremacy, and no criticism of the United States; and a vision of society as an arena where individuals win or lose because of their own talents and efforts.
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