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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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Days of Fear

Days of Fear

(p.139) Eight Days of Fear
The Reagan Era

Doug Rossinow

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on the climate of fear that plagued society in the 1980s. These fears, including fear of national decline, of enemies abroad, of dangerous classes at home, lay behind Reaganism’s positive and optimistic messages of an American revival. The foreign threats, in the Reaganite view, were Communists and terrorists. Anxieties over violence, violation, and disorder were often strongly racialized. White Americans generally associated this threat closely with cities and with black Americans. Many African Americans, and sometimes members of other racial minority groups, also lived in dread of violence from government authorities and vigilantes. While America’s political elites, from Reagan downward, did not create the climate of racial fear and tension in the 1980s, they did little to stem the toxic tides of fear and anger, and may have contributed to them responding crudely and opportunistically—sometimes on a strongly bipartisan basis—to public concerns about crime and disorder.

Keywords:   climate of fear, Reaganism, crime and disorder, American life, African Americans, racial tension

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