election.nSchwab never tires of pointing outnthat, contrary to national memory,nRonald Reagan was not one of thencountry’s most popular Presidents. Henhad only a 60 percent approval ratingnafter seven months in oflRce, comparednto President Bush’s 70 percent. By thenend of his first year, Reagan’s popularitynhad dropped to 49 percent. Althoughnhis ratings improved in laten1983 and 1984 with the economicnrecovery well under way and with hisnvictory over Walter Mondale, his ratingsnagain ebbed in 1986 and 1987nwith revelations of the Iran-Contranscandal. His overall approval rating, inncomparison with the ratings of all othernPresidents since 1932, places him wellnbehind Kennedy, Roosevelt, Eisenhower,nand even Johnson, with Nixon,nCarter, Truman, and Ford slightly trailingnReagan’s average rating of 52 percent.nSchwab adds that, since Reagan wasnnot conspicuously popular, it is hardlynsurprising that his eight years in officenfailed to produce a party realignmentnor make the Republicans the dominantnparty. On the contrary, the Democrats’nsway had never been more complete.nBy the end of the decade thenmajority of senators, representatives,ngovernors, state legislators, and big citynmayors were Democrats; the Republicans,nfor instance, controlled only eightnstate legislatures in 1989. Even thenRepublican Senate victories in then1980’s were based on special circumstancesnand not on a shift in nationalnvoting patterns. The Democrats wonnwell over a majority of the combinednnational vote in the elections of 1980,n1982, and 1984, in which the Republicansnwon a majority of the seats; thenRepublicans, however, managed to winn15 of the 20 seats in the ten statesnsmallest in population.nBut Schwab hits his stride in showingnhow the role of the federal governmentnexpanded rather than contractednin the 1980’s. It is an old story, but onenthat still rankles conservatives. Reagannnot only failed to dismantle the departmentsnof energy and education butneven added a new department of veteransnaffairs. Price support systems — innthe sugar, tobacco, peanut, honey, cotton,ndairy, and rice industries —nexpanded and flourished. What significantnderegulation did occur in then1980’s had been initiated under JimmynCarter. The United States became, fornthe first time, a debtor nation undernReagan. He opposed the right of statesnto control their own National Guardntroops, failed to transfer federal lands tonthe states, and failed to block passage ofnthe important Grove City College civilnrights bill. The New Right agenda ofnbanning abortion and legalizing prayernin public schools never came close tonenactment. Taxes rose substantially innthe 1980’s, and he approved two of thenlargest tax increases, the 1982 tax lawnand the 1983 Social Security reformnbill, in American history.nThe chief irony of the era is that thenone area in which Reagan did reducenthe role of the federal government (andnset a precedent for future administrations)nwas defense: Reagan will gondown in history as the President whoninitiated in the mid-1980’s the greatestnmilitary cutback since 1945, and onenwhich continues apace today. AsnSchwab writes, “The defense budgetnwould have been larger at the end ofnthe 1980’s than it actually was if thenbudget had increased at the rate proposednby Jimmy Carter and WalternMondale.”nSchwab concludes that, rhetoricnnotwithstanding, Reaganism in practicenhad nothing whatsoever to do withnfederalist principle or with a return tonthe traditional bourgeois values of thenOld Right. Reaganism meant merelynthe legitimization “in the federal budgetnand American society” of the NewnDeal-Great Society state.nThere are flaws and omissions innSchwab’s study. First, althoughntaxes may have risen in the aggregatenover the course- of the decade, Reaganndrastically reduced the tax rates forncorporations and the affluent and pavednthe way for the new plutocracy, thensecond Gilded Age. Kevin Phillips, innThe Politics of Rich and Poor, maynhave misrepresented the extent tonwhich Middle Americans actually sufferednunder Reaganomics, but the firstnhalf of his thesis — that the ranks of thenrich swelled under Reagan — is beyondndispute. Yuppies, Wall Street, Bonfirenof the Vanities, Lifestyles of the Richnand Famous, the stock market crash,nthe junk bond boom, the skyrocketingnluxury sales, the emergence into commonnusage of the word “billionaire” —nnnnone of these phenomena of the decadenoccurred in a vacuum, and yet nonaccount of them is anywhere to benfound in Schwab’s book.nSecondly, Schwab’s social-scientificnapproach’ to the topic limits his abilitynto notice elements in Reagan’s electoralnappeal that are not easily distinguishablenby quantitative means. In hisnanalysis of the 1984 election, he citesnthe Survey Research Center’s conclusionnthat there was little differencenbetween the candidates on many issues.nFrom this he argues, “If thenrecession had occurred in 1984 rathernthan in 1982, Reagan probably wouldnhave lost the 1984 election.” Thatnvoters could have chosen Reagan overnMondale for reasons unrelated to thenrecession is a possibility that Schwabnnever entertains. However, the samenstudy includes a key sentence that henquotes but without comment: “Onlynon aid to minorities was the averagenresponse significantly closer tonReagan’s position.”nWhat Schwab fails to understand isnwhat Peter Brown sees so clearly: thatnthe Republicans have long known hownto appeal to Middle Americans whonfeel squeezed between an irresponsiblenpolitical elite and an avaricious lowernclass that the elite caters to at theirnexpense. Donald Warren termed thesencitizens “Middle American Radicals,”nand it was they who filled the ranks ofnNixon’s “New Majority,” who backednGeorge Wallace, and who comprisednthe New Right that so enthusiasticallynsupported Ronald Reagan in then1980’s.nPeter Brown has written a shockinglynhonest book “about the forgottennmiddle class,” about how winning thenWhite House requires understandingnMiddle Americans and, “for the Democrats,nregaining their allegiance.”nBrown is a seasoned political commentatornfor Scripps Howard News Service,nand he makes it clear from the startnthat he is no apostate from the Democraticnfaith. He has written a booknabout Democrats for Democrats in thenhope of helping them regain the presidency,nbut he expects harsh reactionnfrom the party faithfuls. “For thosenDemocrats who will find the bookninfuriating, I can only say that I writenwhat I perceive as reality. Think of menas a physician examining a patient andngiving his professional opinion. I amnFEBRUARY 1992/25n