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Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980's
     

Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980's

by Gil Troy
 

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Did America's fortieth president lead a conservative counterrevolution that left liberalism gasping for air? The answer, for both his admirers and his detractors, is often "yes." In Morning in America, Gil Troy argues that the Great Communicator was also the Great Conciliator. His pioneering and lively reassessment of Ronald Reagan's legacy takes us through

Overview

Did America's fortieth president lead a conservative counterrevolution that left liberalism gasping for air? The answer, for both his admirers and his detractors, is often "yes." In Morning in America, Gil Troy argues that the Great Communicator was also the Great Conciliator. His pioneering and lively reassessment of Ronald Reagan's legacy takes us through the 1980s in ten year-by-year chapters, integrating the story of the Reagan presidency with stories of the decade's cultural icons and watershed moments-from personalities to popular television shows.

One such watershed moment was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. With the trauma of Vietnam fading, the triumph of America's 1983 invasion of tiny Grenada still fresh, and a reviving economy, Americans geared up for a festival of international harmony that-spurred on by an entertainment-focused news media, corporate sponsors, and the President himself-became a celebration of the good old U.S.A. At the Games' opening, Reagan presided over a thousand-voice choir, a 750-member marching band, and a 90,000-strong teary-eyed audience singing "America the Beautiful!" while waving thousands of flags.

Reagan emerges more as happy warrior than angry ideologue, as a big-picture man better at setting America's mood than implementing his program. With a vigorous Democratic opposition, Reagan's own affability, and other limiting factors, the eighties were less counterrevolutionary than many believe. Many sixties' innovations went mainstream, from civil rights to feminism. Reagan fostered a political culture centered on individualism and consumption-finding common ground between the right and the left.

Written with verve, Morning in America is both a major new look at one of America's most influential modern-day presidents and the definitive story of a decade that continues to shape our times.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Entering the realm of the proverbial chicken-and-egg problem, historian Troy examines the relationship between Ronald Reagan s presidency and the materialistic and politically vibrant culture of the 1980s. In chapters organized by year from 1980 to 1990, Troy weaves his narrative of Reagan s presidency into an impressionistic portrait of the cultural and political phenomena that defined the decade from network shows Dynasty and the Cosby Show, through the rise of MTV, CNN, yuppies, Madonna and Donald Trump, to the culture wars of race, gender and political correctness. The effort makes for a lively read, packed with insightful comments about the decade and its legacies. Dubbing Reagan s era the Great Reconciliation, where the sixties met the eighties culturally and politically, Troy dismantles the myth of a politically passive mainstream. Treading a line between lionizing Reagan and disparaging him as airhead, he highlights the contradictions of Reagan s conservatism, with its emphasis on wealth and glamour on the one hand and, on the other, an ascetic streak that recoiled at such excess. Beside Reagan s vision of a morning in America, manifested in a soaring economy, surging patriotism and faltering Soviet Communism, Reagan presided over mourning in America with spiking crime, drugs, family breakdowns and AIDS. Troy avers that Reagan dominated, and defined, the times and remains the greatest president since Franklin Roosevelt. But the Reagan that emerges from his analysis is less the captain steering American culture than a symbol of the 1980s whose greatest strength lay in placing his finger on the pulse of the American id. As Troy writes, Reagan projected a vision that was the vision of themselves most Americans wanted to see. Whether Reagan consciously sought to do so, however, remains an open question. 15 pages of b&w photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Upon the recent death of Ronald Reagan, much of what was said and written tended to be sentimental and complimentary, though a few critical views were heard. Here, Troy (history, McGill Univ.; Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons) provides a balanced, thoughtful, and thoroughly entertaining account of Reagan's legacy that is somewhat reminiscent of David Halberstam's The Fifties. Each year of the 1980s is covered in a single chapter, which chronicles significant political events while weaving in social and cultural developments. Troy argues that Reagan's sunny optimism, following the dour years of the Carter administration, renewed Americans' sense of hope. Reagan, however, was far too comfortable entertaining the public to be a true revolutionary. His easygoing disposition and aversion to conflict made him a better conciliator than a reformer. Reagan was also more effective at stigmatizing liberalism as a failed ideology than he was at destroying it, so when confronted with the difficult choices of gutting major welfare programs, he couldn't act. This book is sure to become popular and deserves a large audience. Enthusiastically recommended.-Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
USA Today
A lively, sprawling work that sees Reagan's reflection in everything from '80s TV shows such as Dynasty to the rejection of 'New Coke' by consumers to the creation of CNN and USA Today. . . . He may have disregarded the rise of AIDS and seemed clueless about the rise in homelessness during his watch, but he also helped create 'an Era of Good Feelings' that left most Americans feeling better about themselves and their country.
— Susan Page
Raleigh News & Observer
[A] masterly study of Ronald Reagan's presidency—the best single book we have on his administration to date.
— David Turner
Montreal Gazette
The main thing Troy has produced is a portrait of the United States in the 1980s in all of its color and texture. . . . [T]he book is a mine of information on U.S. popular culture, presented by one who lived through those times.
— Norman Webster
Books & Culture
A valuable and enjoyable book. . . . Troy's readable book is impressive in its integration of political and social history, while he rightly recognizes that popular culture can provide an effective gauge of the public mood. Thus, he effectively uses the television series Hill Street Blues to illustrate attitudes towards crime and race, and throughout, he uses television, film, and popular music. Troy is anything but a Reagan cheerleader, and he stresses the still contentious nature of the Reagan record.
— Philip Jenkins
New York Observer
Reagan remains our national Rorschach test, a good guide to what we think about the issues of our time. . . . With a year-by-year analysis of the 80's, set in the context of popular culture, Mr. Troy measures the social and cultural consequences of Reagan's free-market agenda. Optimism, individualism, consumerism and even hedonism promote prosperity. But they can—and Mr. Troy believes they did—dilute a sense of community and civic virtue, devalue a nation's social capital, and accelerate the descent into alienation and cynicism.
— Glenn C. Altschuler
Toronto Sun
Troy not only captures Reagan the leader but also the watershed decade he dominated and defined.
— Bill Pierce
Claremont Review of Books
Troy's book . . . cannot help being engaging, packed as it is with memorabilia of the Reagan years. . . . Troy . . . makes a communitarian critique of the Reagan era. He is on solid ground in contending that America became more individualistic and materialistic under Regan, and also in noting that the trend predated and postdated his presidency.
— Ramesh Ponnuru
Rhetoric and Public Affairs
One of Troy's key points is that our memory of Reagan makes his reign seem either more idyllic or more tyrannical than it was in reality. . .. Gil Troy has given us a fascinating look at a crucial decade.
— Timothy Barney
The New York Sun
Morning in America is the rarest of academic histories: insightful, energetic, and a joy to read.
— Peter Schweizer
USA TODAY

A lively, sprawling work that sees Reagan's reflection in everything from '80s TV shows such as Dynasty to the rejection of 'New Coke' by consumers to the creation of CNN and USA TODAY. . . . He may have disregarded the rise of AIDS and seemed clueless about the rise in homelessness during his watch, but he also helped create 'an Era of Good Feelings' that left most Americans feeling better about themselves and their country.
— Susan Page
USA Today - Susan Page
A lively, sprawling work that sees Reagan's reflection in everything from '80s TV shows such as Dynasty to the rejection of 'New Coke' by consumers to the creation of CNN and USA TODAY. . . . He may have disregarded the rise of AIDS and seemed clueless about the rise in homelessness during his watch, but he also helped create 'an Era of Good Feelings' that left most Americans feeling better about themselves and their country.
The New York Sun - Peter Schweizer
Morning in America is the rarest of academic histories: insightful, energetic, and a joy to read.
Raleigh News & Observer - David Turner
[A] masterly study of Ronald Reagan's presidency—the best single book we have on his administration to date.
Montreal Gazette - Norman Webster
The main thing Troy has produced is a portrait of the United States in the 1980s in all of its color and texture. . . . [T]he book is a mine of information on U.S. popular culture, presented by one who lived through those times.
Books & Culture - Philip Jenkins
A valuable and enjoyable book. . . . Troy's readable book is impressive in its integration of political and social history, while he rightly recognizes that popular culture can provide an effective gauge of the public mood. Thus, he effectively uses the television series Hill Street Blues to illustrate attitudes towards crime and race, and throughout, he uses television, film, and popular music. Troy is anything but a Reagan cheerleader, and he stresses the still contentious nature of the Reagan record.
New York Observer - Glenn C. Altschuler
Reagan remains our national Rorschach test, a good guide to what we think about the issues of our time. . . . With a year-by-year analysis of the 80's, set in the context of popular culture, Mr. Troy measures the social and cultural consequences of Reagan's free-market agenda. Optimism, individualism, consumerism and even hedonism promote prosperity. But they can—and Mr. Troy believes they did—dilute a sense of community and civic virtue, devalue a nation's social capital, and accelerate the descent into alienation and cynicism.
Toronto Sun - Bill Pierce
Troy not only captures Reagan the leader but also the watershed decade he dominated and defined.
Claremont Review of Books - Ramesh Ponnuru
Troy's book . . . cannot help being engaging, packed as it is with memorabilia of the Reagan years. . . . Troy . . . makes a communitarian critique of the Reagan era. He is on solid ground in contending that America became more individualistic and materialistic under Regan, and also in noting that the trend predated and postdated his presidency.
Rhetoric and Public Affairs - Timothy Barney
One of Troy's key points is that our memory of Reagan makes his reign seem either more idyllic or more tyrannical than it was in reality. . .. Gil Troy has given us a fascinating look at a crucial decade.
From the Publisher

"A lively, sprawling work that sees Reagan's reflection in everything from '80s TV shows such as Dynasty to the rejection of 'New Coke' by consumers to the creation of CNN and USA TODAY. . . . He may have disregarded the rise of AIDS and seemed clueless about the rise in homelessness during his watch, but he also helped create 'an Era of Good Feelings' that left most Americans feeling better about themselves and their country."--Susan Page, USA TODAY

"Morning in America is the rarest of academic histories: insightful, energetic, and a joy to read."--Peter Schweizer, The New York Sun

"[A] masterly study of Ronald Reagan's presidency--the best single book we have on his administration to date."--David Turner, Raleigh News & Observer

"The main thing Troy has produced is a portrait of the United States in the 1980s in all of its color and texture. . . . [T]he book is a mine of information on U.S. popular culture, presented by one who lived through those times."--Norman Webster, Montreal Gazette

"A balanced, thoughtful, and thoroughly entertaining account of Reagan's legacy. . . . This book is sure to become popular and deserves a large audience. Enthusiastically recommended."--Library Journal

"A valuable and enjoyable book. . . . Troy's readable book is impressive in its integration of political and social history, while he rightly recognizes that popular culture can provide an effective gauge of the public mood. Thus, he effectively uses the television series Hill Street Blues to illustrate attitudes towards crime and race, and throughout, he uses television, film, and popular music. Troy is anything but a Reagan cheerleader, and he stresses the still contentious nature of the Reagan record."--Philip Jenkins, Books & Culture

"Reagan remains our national Rorschach test, a good guide to what we think about the issues of our time. . . . With a year-by-year analysis of the 80's, set in the context of popular culture, Mr. Troy measures the social and cultural consequences of Reagan's free-market agenda. Optimism, individualism, consumerism and even hedonism promote prosperity. But they can--and Mr. Troy believes they did--dilute a sense of community and civic virtue, devalue a nation's social capital, and accelerate the descent into alienation and cynicism."--Glenn C. Altschuler, New York Observer

"Troy not only captures Reagan the leader but also the watershed decade he dominated and defined."--Bill Pierce, Toronto Sun

"Troy's book . . . cannot help being engaging, packed as it is with memorabilia of the Reagan years. . . . Troy . . . makes a communitarian critique of the Reagan era. He is on solid ground in contending that America became more individualistic and materialistic under Regan, and also in noting that the trend predated and postdated his presidency."--Ramesh Ponnuru, Claremont Review of Books

"One of Troy's key points is that our memory of Reagan makes his reign seem either more idyllic or more tyrannical than it was in reality. . .. Gil Troy has given us a fascinating look at a crucial decade."--Timothy Barney, Rhetoric and Public Affairs

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400849307
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/24/2013
Series:
Politics and Society in Modern America
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
1,056,282
File size:
3 MB

What People are Saying About This

Lesley Stahl
I thoroughly enjoyed every single chapter of Morning in America! Gil Troy has written a wonderful book: important, full of fresh insights, and fun to read. I especially like how he weaves the cultural phenomena of the time with Reagan's personal qualities and influence, showing how Reagan was affected by the culture around him and how he changed it.
Lesley Stahl, Correspondent, "60 Minutes"
Bruce Schulman
This remarkable book is well structured, replete with insight and fresh interpretations, nuanced, and written with verve and passion. Reading it was both thoroughly enjoyable and thoroughly informative.
Bruce Schulman, Boston University, author of "The Seventies"
David Frum
Lively and insightful; will equally fascinate admirers and detractors of the Reagan presidency.
David Frum, author of "How We Got Here: The 70s—The Decade That Brought You Modern Life"
Brian Mulroney
Bravo! Gil Troy's readable, entertaining, and compelling book does a masterful job of capturing the challenges Ronald Reagan and I faced in office. This superb book's original insight into the linkage between politics and culture not only explains what happened during Reagan's presidency and the 1980s, it offers essential insight into the continuing debates about the key challenges facing North Americans today.
The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Former Prime Minister of Canada
Hamby
This fast-paced, consistently readable book successfully combines two difficult tasks. It is at once a first-rate interpretive presidential history and a stimulating exposition of the culture of the 1980s. Troy has given us a sweeping, balanced—and indispensable—account of the Reagan Era.
Alonzo L. Hamby, Ohio University, author of "For the Survival of Democracy: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s"

Meet the Author

TroyGil: Gil Troy, a native of Queens, New York, is Professor of History at McGill University. He is the author of "Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons (Kansas)", an updated, paperback edition of "Affairs of State: The Rise and Rejection of the Presidential Couple Since World War II" (Free Press); and of "See How They Ran: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate" (Free Press).

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