In the 1980 Presidential Election, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale were running against Ronald Reagan and George Bush. There was a third party candidate named John Anderson. Because he had been in the Republican primary, some felt he could divide the party and the election would go to Carter. However, the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the botched rescue, the sagging economy, the giving up of the Panama Canal, relations with the Soviet Union and our perceived position in the Cold War was lessening, the agreement to sell arms to China, and the invasion of Afghanistan were enough to cause the "Reagan Revolution." Not only did Ronald Reagan win the election with 489 electoral votes, but the Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress, ensuring his proposals would be passed.
On the day of his inauguration, January 20, 1981, Iran freed the hostages, giving the perception that Iran did not want to deal with a "tough" American president which strengthened Reagan's image. He developed a plan that is alternately referred to as "trickle down economics" or "Reaganomics." The essential idea was that if tax breaks were given to employers, profits would allow employers to expand, and give raises to current workers, so that the cuts would trickle down to employees. This theory was critiqued because of no assurance of where the cuts would go to or whether or not employees would see a benefit. However, the economy grew steadily and seemed to prove his theory correct. By the end of the 1980's, though, things didn't look as rosy and by the early 1990's, as the country began to go into a recession, Democrats declared that Reagan's plan had caused the problems.
Reagan brought ideas like Star Wars or the Strategic Defense Initiative forward as a defense system. He expanded the military. Supported a controversial government bail-out of Chrysler--saving one of Detroit's Big Three. When the Air Traffic Controllers went on strike and refused to go back to work, he fired those who did not return. He began negotiations with the Soviets with START talks (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) designed to reduce and not eliminate nuclear weapons.
Lebanon had been a sight of attacks, particularly against Americans. The marines had gone in for a peace-keeping mission. A truck crashed into the Marine barracks in Beirut. It was loaded with explosives and killed 241 U S. servicemen.
One scandal that appeared seemed to be Iran-Contra. The US. had been helping various groups in South America in their efforts to gain a more democratically controlled government. The US. was trying to free hostages in Beirut, most of them civilian, that had been captured by groups sympathetic to the Iranian cause and against the U S. support of the Shah, and their support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. The US. started negotiations to trade arms for the hostages using the Contras in Nicaragua as intermediaries.
Reagan nominates Sandra Day O'Connor to be the first female US. Supreme Court Justice, fulfilling a campaign promise.
His popularity because of his strong positions was enough that when the 1984 election occurred. and he and Bush were running against Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, the first female candidate for vice president in a major party, he won 49 out of 50 states and 525 electoral votes-the most any candidate has won in presidential history. He became the oldest elected president. At the end of his second term, it was polled that if he had been able to run for a third term, it would have been another major landslide.
In the 1988 election, Vice President George Bush and Dan Quayle from Indiana, ran against Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Benson, and once again the Republicans remained in the White House.
In other events, the 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York. One ofthe events was ice hockey, and the Americans had not won the gold medal in 20 years. The Soviets were considered the best in the world. The tournament mirrored the tensions between the two countries. When the American team started to win, and gained momentum, the gold medal was in sight. The only thing in the way was the Soviets. In what is often called "Miracle on Ice," the U S. defeated the Soviets, won the gold. and the triumph started to raise the American spirit of patriotism.
The 1980 Summer Olympics were a different matter. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. It was not unknown that the US. was helping the Afghani guerillas. Carter decided to boycott the summer games which were being held in Moscow. The Soviets did the same in 1984 when the summer games were held in Los Angeles. These boycotts did various things for athletes. Some could not compete because of the boycott in 1980, others did not have to face the Soviet bloc competition in 1984, earned medals and became American sports heroes, like Mary Lou Retton.
Fashion became strikingly different from the 1970's. For women, hip-huggers, bell-bottoms, pant suits and bright polyesters gave way to cottons, lace and shoulder pads. Music shifted from disco to heavy metal. Stars such as Michael Jackson and Prince gained fame with "Thriller" and "Purple Rain," respectively. Swing dancing made a quick return.