A generation ago, it really wasn't all that hard to anticipate what would come of a successful Reagan Revolution: governments in turmoil, increased repression of dissent, growing ignorance among the masses, huge disparities in wealth and privilege, lower taxes on the rich, economic chaos, crumbling infrastructure, nasty "Little Wars," and on and on. It was all built in to the Reagan world view, and it had been fully on display while he was Governor of California before he took on the World.
Here's the Nation section contents for the November 17, 1980 issue of TIME Magazine (cover illustration above)
We Are Off on a Special Adventure (The Presidency/Hugh Sidey)
When Jimmy Knew
An Interview with Ronald Reagan
A Determined Second Fiddle
Draft Picks for the New Team
Is There Life After Disaster?
Squeezed Out off the Middle
Reagan Gets a G.O.P Senate
The House Is Not a Home
Moving into Stately Mansions
Referendums: Rising Impatience
Note the surprise with which his landslide election victory took the Wisecrackers at TIME (and the rest of the media) on Election night:
Landslide. Yes, landslide—stunning, startling, astounding, beyond the wildest dreams and nightmares of the contending camps, beyond the furthest ken of the armies of pollsters, pundits and political professionals. After all the thousands of miles, the millions of words and dollars, the campaign that in newspapers across the land on the very morning of Election Day was still headlined TOO CLOSE TO CALL turned out to be a landslide. The American voter had struck again. Half the election-watching parties in the nation were over before the guests arrived. The ponderous apparatus of the television networks' Election Night coverage had scarcely got on the air before it was over. NBC called the winner at 8:15 p.m. E.S.T., and the loser conceded while Americans were still standing in line at polling booths in much of the country. In a savage repudiation of a sitting President not seen since F.D.R. swept away Herbert Hoover in the midst of the Great Depression, Americans chose Ronald Wilson Reagan, at 69 the oldest man ever to be elected President, to replace Jimmy Carter in the White House.
And what would he do as President? TIME hints in its opening story that November, but doesn't quite get around to saying:
Regan never backed away from his basic principles or essential message abroad, the source of most trouble in the world is the Communist drive for global domination; at home, the fount of most American woes is the overblown, endlessly intrusive Federal Government. In foreign affairs, the U.S. must build up its military power and face down the Soviets. At home, Regan watchword will be less: less federal spending, less taxation, less regulation, less federal activism in directing the economy and curing social ills—in fact, less Government period.
And so it would be, so it is.
And look what it's got us.
Blame Clinton? Sure, for what he did and didn't do. But he didn't orignate the Reagan program he was still carrying out. He was just the best Republican president since Teddy Roosevelt. Blame either or both of the Bushes? Of course, for what they did and didn't do, and their bloodsoaked reigns of terror and kleptocracy are not likely to be forgotten. But they were not the originators of the Reagan quest for world domination, for unfettered (and largely untaxed) rich man's rule, for squeezing every dime out of the untermenschen.
No, what we have today -- and what will have to be dealt with for a generation to come -- is the direct result of the Reagan Revolution. Many people supported it unknowingly, just wanting something different, "change" as it were (as it was repeatedly stated during the election of 1980.) "CHANGE!"
In some ways, Obama is wise to use the same mantra for this year's election.
But will an Obama presidency be as transformational or even Revolutionary? That remains to be seen, but events have a way of shaping outcomes, just as much as Leaders do.
And events are spiraling much the way they did before Reagan ascended to the Purple.