Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, along with the most conservative Congress in 28 years, signaled a dramatic turn in domestic and foreign policy. The mandate Reagan won from the voters on Nov. 4 ushered in an era of tax cuts, bigger defense spending, massive deficits -- and the final, victorious stages of the Cold War. Even today, though suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Reagan remains an icon for conservatives and a dominant figure in 20th-century politics. An excerpt from The Post of Nov. 5, 1980:
Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 69-year-old former governor of California who transferred his acting talents and conservative views from the sound stages of Hollywood to the halls of government, yesterday won a sweeping victory as the 40th president of the United States and immediately pledged to seize the historic opportunity to change things.
Nominated by the Republicans who had twice earlier rejected his bids to head their ticket, Reagan defeated President Carter by a landslide majority in electoral votes, with independent contender John B. Anderson far behind and winning no states.
Reagan appeared before his supporters in Los Angeles at midnight EST and promised to "do my utmost to justify your faith." As he had done so often in the long campaign, he promised that "we're going to put America back to work again."
In ratifying Reagan's claim that the Carter administration had damaged America's economy and international standing, the voters also turned thumbs down on a half-dozen leading liberal Democratic senators and elected the most conservative Congress in a generation. Their action strengthened the president-elect's right to interpret his victory as a mandate for the policies of stronger defense and skimpier government that he has articulated for 20 years.
Whether this victory in 1980 represents a fundamental political realignment like the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 won't be known without further analysis of the returns, but the question is already present in the results.
Carter conceded defeat before a crowd of supporters at the Sheraton-Washington Hotel while the polls were still open on the West Coast. He told them and a national television audience that he had promised Reagan, in a brief phone call, "the best transition in history." In an emotional but controlled voice, he said his followers could find consolation in the confidence that "the successes we have had" will not be forgotten.
As Carter spoke, the tally in the election was showing Reagan with just about 50 percent of the popular vote, Carter with 43 percent and Anderson with 6 percent. But Reagan was moving toward an electoral college landslide with more than 400 of the 538 possible votes.