What if Reagan Was Never President?

An Alternate History: What if Reagan Was Never President?
Ronald Reagan. To some, he is the smooth-talking defender of independence, who used his wise demeanor to finish communism itself and bring America into a golden age, with golden arches.

What if Reagan Was Never President?

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To others, he is a figure who created the modern-day problems and economic inequality we see between classes.

No matter who you are, you have to admit: Reagan, or at least his government, has directly influenced America both politically and culturally, spurring the ideas we constantly, constantly debate about.

So, what if you just took him out of history? What if Ronald Reagan never became President of the United States?

Say he lost the election to Carter (bear with me), lost to another Republican competitor, or just never ran in the prime place.

How would this improve our world, and more importantly, America? Just kidding. (N- no, I’m not.) Well, first, before I can discuss this alternate scenario, here is some context.

In the election of 1980, the race was between President Jimmy Carter, who was fighting for a second term, and on the Republican side, a retired actor and Governor of California Ronald Reagan, whose charismatic optimism of America’s future won various over.
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The race was neck and neck. That was lying; it was a blowout. Reagan’s spirit totally outshined the humble Jimmy Carter, who had converted the face of the oil crisis, hostage crisis, and many other crises of the 1970s.

On January 20, 1981, Reagan’s presidency saw the immediate release of the hostages in Iran. The reason for being released on this day is still up to debate, but that’s not the point.

What this symbolized is things were going to be very different. And they certainly were. Reagan’s administration mantra was to bring America back to a simpler time: “Make America Great Again.” Yeah, that was actually their motto.

To paraphrase his inaugural address, Reagan saw government as the primary deterrent of American rights and the best way to protect liberty was to limit government.

Now did this actually happen?
Ehh... Reagan’s administration never actually shrunk the government down as a whole, but instead, as with any other administration since FDR, just rearranged priorities for areas of the government for spending.

It implemented tax cuts in 1981, deregulation was across the board for companies, and unprecedented amounts boosted military spending.

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The Reagan administration’s policies bolstered on an idea that America not only was losing its identity from increased government involvement but also its cultural and religious identity as well.
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But the main thing Reagan promoted was a new rebirth for American capitalism. Keep in mind he was elected in the ‘70s which weren’t too famous for their economic prosperity, so people wanted change.

He spread an idea known as Reaganomics. Reaganomics is extremely complex, too much for a couple-minute video, but what it did was drastically cut taxes for the American public, especially for the rich, and deregulated large portions of the economy for businesses.

Today this idea is still how a large portion of the economy is run and is extremely controversial, so I’m just going to kick that can down the road. Many people associate Reagan with his bold anti-communist stance.

Instead of trying to contain communism, Reagan’s idea was to widen the cracks in the Soviet regime. He expanded military spending to an unprecedented scale to “bankrupt the Soviets.”

And this large-scale military is still around today. He proposed the SDI program, with space lasers and other things, that spooked the Soviets into coming to the negotiating table.

To vastly oversimplify Reagan’s time in office, when he left in 1988, the US had overseen years of almost unprecedented economic growth, millions of new jobs, a revitalized conservative movement, lower taxes, and the Soviet Union on the brink of failure.

Go, team. Many attributed this success solely to Reagan’s leadership, which to this day is still up to debate. So, let’s say none of that happens.
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What if Reagan was never President?


In this alternate scenario, Reagan never runs for President. I say that only because I can’t think of a reason how he would lose. His opponent was Carter in the general and Bush in the primaries, so it wasn’t too difficult.

Now him not running is very unlikely, as in our timeline Reagan almost overthrew incumbent Gerald Ford in the 1976 primaries just four years earlier, but stay with me.

It’s in 1980. Alternate 1980. Reagan never runs. The election is between President Jimmy Carter, who is under a faulty administration and hasn’t had the best reputation, against the Republican candidate George H. W. Bush.

Since Reagan never ran, Bush is the winner of the primaries instead and faces up against Carter in the general.

Keep in mind, the memory of the gas crisis and Iran are still deep in the minds of the American public, so Carter really didn’t stand a chance against whoever ran against him.

In this alternate scenario, George H. W. Bush is selected as President in 1980. Instead of the boasting, domineering spirit of Reagan, the Bush administration is more reserved but still optimistic.

And while Reagan’s character matched the new glamour of the 1980s, Bush would be a stark contrast to the new age: strong-willed, smart, but also quiet. This alternate Bush administration would just come off as disconnected.

Reagan’s ideas were so influential there’s a reason why it’s called the Reagan Revolution. It wasn’t just legislation. It was a change in national attitude.

Reagan redefined how Americans viewed their country in contrast to the decades of the 1960s and 70s. A new brand of nationalism, one focused on morality, faith, and strength.

In this alternate scenario, there is no Bush Revolution. There is no culture shift like with Reagan. Yes, people economically feel better in the 1980s, but it doesn’t change the underlying culture of the nation.
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Bush, while religious, didn’t believe in pushing faith in politics. Reagan, ooh, Reagan made it mainstream for a generation. In this alternate 1980s Bush era, there isn’t this massive resurgence in mainstream religious conservatism.

This carries on to alternate today. Evangelical movements don’t gain the mainstream attention or power as in our timeline. Reagan redefined moral conservatism and used his image to push that.

Bush, while very family-oriented and moral-driven, just didn’t have the charisma to make these ideas popular. As an actor, Reagan popularized moral politics by making it sound sincere.

Alternate President Bush comes off as a bureaucrat. George Bush, for context, served as UN ambassador and director of the CIA, so his realm was foreign politics.

He famously cared very little about domestic issues. I’d seemingly do the same, so I don’t criticize him. This lack of a domestic mentality is fine in 1988, where the economy is already booming, but in 1980 this proves to be more of a problem.

What this affects is the economy. Without Reagan, there’s no Reaganomics. No duh. But Reaganomics pushed an idea known as supply-side economics.

As I mentioned earlier, this was the whole “slashing taxes for the rich, dropping regulation” thing. I’m not getting into a debate about whether supply-side economics caused the boom of the 1980s, so I’m not going to bring that into the scenario.

But, Bush was not a fan of this economic model. In fact, he called it “voodoo economics.” So, in this alternate presidency, this economic change never takes hold.

Without this action, the recovery of the 1980s is not as dramatic, so to say. Now the economy can still recover.

There’s still a change in how people consume, sell and buy things. The economy can even flourish under alternate Bush. It just isn’t as dramatic.

Without this new hopeful Reagan optimism that meant a new decade as a new dawn, there isn’t this drastic change in attitude from the 70s. Bush is optimistic, but without the salesmanship, it doesn’t sell.

Even if the economy is better, there isn’t this “new day” mentality. Many negative aspects of the 70s still transfer and have lasting effects on the American conscious. Speaking of lasting effects, the USSR.

Without Reagan, what happens to the Soviet Union?


While Reagan was a staunch anti-communist and boosted military spending, he didn’t completely contribute to the fall of the Soviets. They did that to themselves.

While the specific reasons for why the USSR fell is a topic of debate, It’s accepted Reagan didn’t completely destroy it. But with his aggressive pressure on the Soviets, he did help speed up the process, at least by a year or two.

Imagine the Soviet system was basically choking, and Reagan put its boot on its neck to kill it faster. So the Soviet Union still falls around the early 90s like it did in our timeline.

In this alternate 80s, the United States has a pretty similar policy under President Bush, except for less boasting and more within the realms of realism.

Bush cranks the freedoms from 10 down to about an 8. The US still supports the Mujahideen, still would fund anti-communist groups around the world, and still invades countries it needs to.

So, some things never change. It’s alternate 1988. President Bush has most likely won the second reelection because while he didn’t have the dramatic theatrics of Reagan’s New America, he still was a successful president.

His administration has seen diplomatic success, similar relation progress with the USSR and thawing of the Cold War, so he leaves a very successful president.

The new question, however, is who takes his place?

If Bush is a good president, then his successor, a Republican, would have a good chance of winning. In this alternate timeline, let’s say Bob Dole becomes President of the US in 1988.

Now, this is just a prediction, but we need somebody in the office. Dole’s presidency will oversee the fall of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Persian Gulf War, and a new dawn of Islamic terrorism.

First, the Persian Gulf. Saddam invades Kuwait because it was in a bad situation after the Iran-Iraq War. Of course, the Persian Gulf War still happens, Iraq is beaten back, go America.

But now Dole must decide whether to take Saddam out or not. Bush, with his foreign policy experience, knew invading Iraq would cause horrible destabilization.

Guess that’s not genetic. Dole is a bit of a wild card in this scenario. We can’t predict how he would act, and there’s a chance the US would invade and overthrow Saddam in 1991.

Keep in mind, 9/11 didn’t happen. So invading Iraq isn’t under a claim of WMDs, but because Saddam invaded a country. Which makes sense.

Read MoreWhat if the United States Didn't Exist?

 At first. So what happens to Iraq? 

Well, depends on one thing. If the US doesn’t dissolve the Ba’ath Party and the Iraqi Party, then there isn’t an insurgency.

But if this Republican president decides to, then we have a problem. In this alternate timeline, without Reagan, there is no Bush in office in 1991, so there’s some random Republican whose one decision could alter foreign policy in the 90s.

The 1990s might not be a period of growth for the US, but instead taking the problems of the 2000s and just pushing it earlier. Politics of the Middle East all become central issues for the 1990s, but because of that, it’s unlikely 9/11 ever happens.

Terrorism doesn’t become a sudden enemy, but one the US has already been fighting. This expands to Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc.

If foreign fighters come to Iraq to fight the US, it targets their organizations across the world. The US, internationally, is less isolated in this alternate 90s.

Yugoslavia still collapses, but the conflicts that follow are connected to US foreign policy. Maybe more immediate action happens to stop the spread of terrorism and extremism.

If Bob Bole, or whoever, invades Iraq and gets us into a quagmire, they’re voted out of office, and most likely Bill Clinton is left to pick up the mess.

This is just one random prediction. It could be another Democrat candidate too, so who knows?

But what certainly changes is that the 2000s is not a decade defined by 9/11, terrorism, and Iraq. Instead, it is recovery time and a new time of hopeful optimism after a war in the Persian Gulf.

All this occurs because one man never became President. It changes the order of succession, and in the end, affects our national mentality, culture, and very lives.

However, this is just one scenario. We never truly know how things would have been had Reagan never been President, but it’s fun to theorize.

What do you imagine would have happened had Reagan never been President? Say in the comments.
What if Reagan Was Never President? What if Reagan Was Never President? Reviewed by What IF on May 19, 2019 Rating: 5

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