The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan

In This Review

The Eighties: America in the Age of Reagan

By John Ehrman
Yale University Press, 2005
304 pp. $27.50
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This book serves admirably as an introduction to the 1980s for the ever-increasing number of students for whom the Age of Reagan is as remote as the fall of the Roman Empire. Reasonably well balanced, it considers the major objections to Reagan's policies and pulls no punches on matters such the Iran-contra debacle. Yet even with all the warts painted in, Ehrman's portrayal of the Reagan revolution notes that in many ways (some good, some less so) the nation is still traveling on the path Ronald Reagan pointed out. Democratic analyses he cites from the era look miserable and pale in the cold glare of hindsight. Predictions of imminent, deficit-driven doom; sour prophecies of German and Japanese economic domination; claims that an aggressive foreign policy would inflame the Cold War; calls for the reregulation of the economy: with what authority and passion they were delivered by what prominent figures -- and how little they bear rereading today. Those of us whose anti-Reagan writings are not quoted in this quietly devastating book can be grateful, but one wonders uneasily how much of today's punditry will seem this foolish when the history of the Bush years comes to be written.