Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Ronald Reagan and race : the evolution of colour-blind conservatism
Author: Barker, Dominic
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 6555
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2020
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Restricted access.
Access from Institution:
Ronald Reagan was the most influential American conservative politician of the twentieth century. His name gave rise to an ‘era’ and his politics became an ‘ism’. His two sizable election victories in 1980 and 1984 were record-breaking, and yet, to African Americans his victories symbolised ‘Mourning in America’. Historiography presents Reagan as the successor in a history of conservative antagonism toward civil rights progression. To some, his presidency represented the zenith of white backlash hostility. This thesis takes a more nuanced approach; seeking to understand the historical roots and development of Reagan’s ideological worldview regarding minority America. In tracing his ideological formulation from his college days in the 1930s, to the end of his presidency in 1989, we see the relationship between Reagan-conservatism and civil rights in a wholly new light. Overturning our present understanding of Reagan as embodying the ‘white backlash’ narrative, this thesis argues that his vision of ‘colour-blind’ conservatism was a distinct historical tradition. Not only did Reagan fail to pursue the backlash politics of Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but he pulled conservatism in a different direction, fracturing the Republican Party. Reagan’s colour-blindness took a broad, universal approach in which the solution to America’s racial problems was to ignore race entirely. Consequently, Reagan opposed affirmative action, the expansion of welfare, and many of the Civil Rights reforms of the 1960s. Yet, as liberal consensus dramatically shifted during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency toward compensatory forms of justice along group-based lines, Reagan’s politics were left outdated and (to some) indefensible.
Supervisor: Davies, Gareth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History ; twentieth century United States ; political history