Yankelovich, Daniel; Kaagan, Larry
December 1980
Foreign Affairs;1980 Special Issue, Vol. 59 Issue 3
Between U.S. president Jimmy Carter's election in 1976 and Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980, the outlook of the American people underwent one of those decisive shifts that historians generally label as watershed events. In 1976 the nation was still in the aftershock of Watergate and Vietnam unsure of its limits as a superpower, agonizing over the moral rightness of the Vietnam War, dreading involvement in foreign commitments that in any way resembled Vietnam, pre-occupied with domestic economic problems, intent on restoring the presidency to pre-Watergate levels of integrity, and dependent on detente with the Soviet Union to lighten both the defense budget and the tensions of international relations. Some elements of the change in American attitudes toward foreign affairs have been brewing for several years, but 1980 brought many reinforcing developments, all of which delivered related messages about American strength and weakness, honor eminence and standing among nations. Some of these struck the American public with astonishing force.


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