In Reagan's backyard: an examination of the condition of liberalism in California in the early 1980s

Craig Muller

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In 1980, Ronald Reagan became the fortieth president of the United States following an election that was said to have presaged a political turn to the right in that country. This thesis identifies three broad historical themes that characterised the period in the immediate aftermath of the 1980 election. Firstly, there was the notion that the voting public was becoming more conservative in its choices in federal politics. This is tested by looking at voter behaviour in the 1982 midterm elections. Secondly, the idea that the liberal-conservative dialectic was becoming less important in United States politics is examined using as a framework the actions and statements of prominent liberals. Thirdly, the thesis examines the accuracy of prognoses that were being made about liberalism as a viable political entity in the wake of the 1980 elections. These themes are examined via a series of parallel, occasionally overlapping narratives, following the main strands of liberal activity and thought in one state California in the early 1980s. Many of the sources used were derived from commentary that was being made as events unfolded. The debate about the meaning of the 1980 election therefore changes and this change is part of the story told here. Answering some questions also involved using source material that was more reflective. Hence, parts of the thesis are historiographical. Despite its political content, this thesis is a work of history. It examines the drama of men and women acting within their time, bound by the world around them, but also trying to change that world.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2006


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