OPINIONSnTruth or Consequencesnby Theodore Pappasn”I don’t know where democracy will end, but it can’t end in a quiet old age.”n— Klemens von MetternichnThe Illusion of a ConservativenReagan Revolutionnby Larry M. SchwabnNew Brunswick, New Jersey:nTransaction Publishers;n243 pp., $29.95nMinority Party: Why DemocratsnFace Defeat in 1992nand Beyondnby Peter BrownnWashington: Regnery Gateway;n350 pp., $21.95nRowland Evans and Robert Novaknwere among the first political commentatorsnto designate the 1980 electionnof Ronald Reagan a watershed datenin American political history. From theirnperspective in 1981, “What was sonquickly started then in regulatory relaxation,nspending cuts and tax cut proposalsnwas just the beginning. . . . Evennthe Moral Majority’s social issues wouldnbe pursued in time.” John Chubb andnPaul Peterson agreed, and in 1985 innThe New Direction in American Politicsnargued, “The American politicalnsystem, during the presidency ofnRonald Reagan, has been transformednto an extent unknown since the days ofnFranklin Delano Roosevelt. . . . Onlynrarely in American history has thenpolitical system broken as sharply withngoverning customs to address festeringnnational problems or to confront socialnand economic issues head-on.” Evennas late as 1988, it was possible to findnsomeone like Marhn Anderson to suggestnthat “what Reagan and his comradesnhave done is to shape America’snpolicy agenda well into the twenty-firstncentury.”nWhat all these writers have in com-nTheodore Pappas is the associateneditor of Chronicles.n24/CHRONICLESnmon is their adherence to the Reagannrevolution thesis, which goes somethingnlike this. The nearly fifty years ofnliberal policies that the United Statesnhad experienced since 1932 came tonan abrupt end in 1980, when a massivenconservative shift in public opinionnoccurred and produced RonaldnReagan’s landslide victory and the firstnRepublican Senate majority in overntwenty-five years. Reagan became onenof the most popular Presidents in modernntimes and used the new conservativenmood of the country to institutendramatic and lasting changes in publicnnnpolicies and party politics.nWith the Reagan era over and accuratenstatistical data on the decade nownavailable, enter Larry Schwab to chastisenall such prognosticators of politicalnchange and to unveil the Reagan legacynin all its contradictory splendor.nSchwab is a professor of political sciencenat John Carroll University, andnhis book is a dry but often convincingndemolition of the Reagan revolutionnthesis. He argues that Reagan wasnneither one of the most popular Presidentsnnor a great legislative leader;nthere was no conservative shift in then1980 election and no party realignmentnover the decade; and althoughnreform was attempted in the first eighteennmonths of Reagan’s presidency,nthere remained no lasting change innthe federal system.nAccording to Schwab, Reagan’snelection and reelection were not mandatesnfor’ conservatism. Reagan’s landslidenvictory in 1980 was not so muchnthe result of a fundamental shift innpublic opinion or political ideology asnthe fervent expression of the country’snfrustration with Jimmy Carter’s handlingnof foreign and economic affairs.nRegarding the 1984 election, Schwabncites the Survey Research Center’snconclusion that the average voter “wasnabout halfway between the two candidatesnon government services, aid tonwomen, relations with Russia, jobs, andnstandard of living guarantee.” In 1984,nas in the 1980 election, the economynwas the factor determining Reagan’snvictory. The recession hit early innReagan’s first term, dropping his popularityndramatically. But economic recoverynwas well underway in the yearnbefore the 1984 election, and it isnalways the year directly before thenelection, not the economic developmentsnearly in a President’s term, thatnplays the critical role in any nationaln