Title page for ETD etd-03302011-144750

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Caillet, Matthew David
URN etd-03302011-144750
Title "Are you Better Off"; Ronald Reagan, Louisiana, and the 1980 Presidential Election
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Culbert, David H Committee Chair
Long, Alecia P. Committee Member
Parent, Wayne T. Committee Member
  • Department of Defense
  • Solid South
  • Reagan Revolution
  • Monroe
  • Lafayette
  • Lake Charles
  • New Orleans
  • Baton Rouge
  • Shreveport
  • voter registration
  • Russell B. Long
  • Department of Energy
  • Gillis Long
  • John Breaux
  • Jerry Huckaby
  • Lindy Boggs
  • Claude Buddy Leach
  • Wilbert Billy Tauzin
  • Charles Black
  • oil
  • Democratic Party
  • Republican Party
  • John Cade
  • Louisiana politics
  • Louisiana history
  • American history
  • George Despot
  • Selective Service
  • Louis Woody Jenkins
  • desegregation
  • J. Bennett Johnston
  • James Earl Carter
  • Ronald Wilson Reagan
  • abortion
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • ERA
  • campaign tactics
  • presidential campaign
  • newspaper editorials
  • racial politics
  • race relations
  • political history
  • military
  • defense
  • Kenneth Klinge
  • energy
  • United States History
  • economics
  • inflation
  • offshore drilling
  • Iran Hostage Crisis
  • military draft
  • George Bush
  • George Herbert Walker Bush
  • Gerald Randolph Ford
  • misery index
Date of Defense 2011-03-28
Availability unrestricted
This thesis describes how Ronald Reagan succeeded in carrying Louisiana in the 1980 Presidential election. Initially, pundits predicted the election, both statewide and nationwide, would be a “dead heat” between Reagan and President Jimmy Carter. Southern voters supported Carter, despite his many blunders; many American voters wondered if Reagan would be a competent leader. Reagan had a well-organized campaign and spent plenty of time in Louisiana, considered a pivotal “swing state.” His campaign team prepared speeches, explained issues, and received information and support from state Republican leaders, including Governor David Treen and Congressmen Robert Livingston and Henson Moore. Good local support, coordinated by the national campaign, paid real dividends.

This thesis utilizes the Ronald Reagan Campaign Papers at the Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California. These papers were first made available for research in 2008, and include correspondence among campaign staffers, politicians, and some supporters. In addition, this thesis uses network newscasts from the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive. Finally, numerous Louisiana newspapers, including those from rural, suburban, and urban areas, were used for research.

Reagan's victory in the 1980 election marked the beginning of a new form of conservatism that stressed economic and social reform via lower taxes, smaller federal government, strong national defense, and opposition to both abortion and homosexual lifestyles. In Louisiana, his win boosted the state's Republican Party, once considered a small minority party with little power in local and state leadership. In addition, the 1980 campaign served as a trial run in Louisiana for Governor Treen, who served as Reagan's Louisiana honorary campaign chair, and former Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards, who served as Carter's Louisiana honorary campaign chair, as these two men faced each other in the 1983 gubernatorial election. Thanks to Reagan's legacy, Louisiana's Republican Party has transformed itself into a strong second party that currently holds most statewide elected offices, federal Congressional seats, and both houses of the state legislature. Though not clear in 1980, today it is clear that the conservative Republican resurgence in American politics defined itself in Louisiana in choices offered by Ronald Reagan in achieving an impressive electoral victory.

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