The New Right’s Road to Power
The worst nightmares of the American left appear to have come true. Like the beast of the apocalypse, Reaganism has slouched out of the Sunbelt, devouring liberal senators and Great Society programmes in its path. With the fortieth President’s popularity-rating soaring above eighty percent (partially thanks to an inept assassin), most surviving liberals seem frightened out of their moral fibres. Pragmatic as well as right-leaning Democrats have joined with Republicans in a new ‘era of good feeling’, slashing vital welfare spending to make way for the biggest and most ominous escalation of arms spending in history. Public discourse has been commandered by multitudes of ‘post-liberals’, ‘neo-conservatives’ and ‘new rightists’ who offer the grotesque ideological inversion of positive discrimination for the middle classes and welfare for the corporations. Indisputably a seismic shift rightwards is taking place at every level of American politics with grim implications for the future of minorities, women and the labour movement. It is far less clear, however, whether the 27% of the electorate who voted for Ronald Reagan have actually inaugurated the long-awaited ‘New Republican Majority’. For some pundits, 8 November 1980 was nothing less than the Eighteenth Brumaire of American conservatism, while for others it merely marks the beginning of another chapter in the endemic crisis of the Presidency that has plagued every administration since 1964 (two of them with larger initial mandates than Reagan).
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