chapter  4
66 Pages

The Reagan Administration

WithRichard A. Melanson

In a fundamental sense Ronald Reagan continued the domestic political project begun by Richard Nixon. Before Watergate, Nixon had begun to build a new coalition—the “real majority”—from groups that shared a common resentment of New Class liberals, Great Society excesses, federal social engineering, and creeping permissiveness. Reagan mined this populist vein throughout the 1970s, but did so more systemically, programmatically, and consistently than Nixon. As a former governor of California, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan may have lacked foreign policy experience but he surely did not lack opinions about America’s proper role in the world. Reagan’s early foreign policy rhetorical quiescence hardly meant that he lacked strong beliefs. The chapter examines the administration’s efforts to legitimate, bureaucratically and publicly, two specific applications of the Reagan Doctrine: the Grenadian “rescue mission” of October 1983 and its long-standing support for the Nicaraguan “democratic resistance.