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GOVERNOR REAGAN AND ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT BERKELEY, 1966-1970 Garin Burbank The election of George Bush in 1988 as successor to Ronald Reagan has brought to a close what may well be judged the most significant of the postwar presidencies, one whose central figure captivated a majority of voters even as he infuriated his liberal, and frequently impotent, critics. For the first time in a generation, a president has completed two full terms, departing the White House with as much favour and admiration as on the day he entered it. His administration has been bountiful in controversy, but no less productive in its numerous achievements. Reagan has fashioned a creative counterpoise between his strikingly conservative ideological convictions and his surprisingly centrist methods of government. Recent history yields other instances of unexpected results. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson campaigned on a "peace"platform while secretly planning to enlarge and intensify the American war effort in Vietnam. Richard Nixon, never shy in denouncing Communism, chose to pursue diplomatic realism in visiting Mao Tse-Tung in order to open a policy-window long shut against normal relations with China. But for truly unexpected results, and \\'ith still unforeseeable consequences, Ronald Reagan has retired from the office he entered as an ardent Cold Warrior, now feeling entitled to claim a splendid record of reduced conflict between the superpowers. He has achieved the most promising measures of arms control and the best prospects of disengaging hostile forces in half a century. If his policy of building up sure defenses has helped to end the Cold War that began in 1945, his historical reputation will be secure, and sympathetic historians will find it easier to rank him as a superior president. Now another war has begun--the war for Reagan's legacy. Rival patrols of liberals and conservatives are already doing reconnaissance across the shell-pocked political landscape of the 1980s. If we shift our attention, however, from the Reagan presidential "era" to the Reagan gubernatorial years in California, we may uncover the vigorous roots of later political success. The man who started political life as a "citizen-politician"eventually 18 Garin Burbank would make his personal drama into the moral drama of his countrymen. The novice Governor learned how to make his concern for "moral decency" into a potent cultural symbol and a winning political signature. In the clamorous fall of 1966, Reagan campaigned for his first public office, and at almost every stop was greeted with stormy applause and shouts of encouragement. His was a simple vow: if elected Governor, he would "clean up the mess" at Berkeley. 1 In Reagan's view, it was the moral laxity of liberals, on campus and in the legislature, that had permitted the culture of political radicalism, sexual freedom, dope-smoking and defiant law-breaking to flourish on the University of California's premier campus. Reflecting rising public anger, Reagan proposed to replace the attitude of tolerant bargaining encouraged by University faculty and Democratic state officials with a strong sense of civic rectitude and public order. In the heat of the campaign, it was not always clear whether Reagan wished to stamp out unorthodoxy in politics and culture, or simply to admonish radical students and disaffected faculty that their dissent was made possible by the orderly American institutions they assailed. Those institutions, Reagan feared, would be undermined by chronic lawlessness and abusive extremity. One politician explained Reagan's million-vote margin in the November election by saying simply that the voters "were mad about Berkeley." 2 Reagan himself quickened the hopes of those angry voters with his post-election ultimatum to the student militants: "obey the rules, or get out."3 Appalled by Reagan's growing popularity, many Berkeley professors feared that the pungently critical Republican candidate might attack what they understood to be academic freedom. Even if Reagan had not jolted the faculty with his charge that they were somehow responsible for disorderly protests on campus, the predominantly left-of-centre Berkeley professors would not have forgiven him his suspicion of civil-rights laws, his opposition to compulsory Social Security truces,and his scepticism about the very idea of federal regulation of the private sector.4 Anyone...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 17-30
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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