Key Topics–Period 9: 1980 to Present
Remember that the AP US History exam tests you on the depth of your knowledge, not just your ability to recall facts. While we have provided brief definitions here, you will need to know these terms in even more depth for the AP US History exam, including how terms connect to broader historical themes and understandings.
- Jimmy Carter: Thirty-ninth President. The former governor of Georgia, he ran as an outsider in the 1976 Presidential election. Served one term. Carter pardoned Vietnam War draft dodgers, established the Departments of Energy and Education, and returned the Panama Canal to Panama. Internationally, he oversaw the Camp David Accords, ended détente in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and was dogged by the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
- Ronald Reagan: Fortieth President. Served 1981–1989. Former two-term governor of California, he heralded a shift within the Republican Party toward an ideological conservatism. Domestically, he oversaw massive tax cuts, economic deregulation, and increased defense spending. Internationally, he took a hawkish line with the Soviet Union while also negotiating arms limitations. His final years in office were dogged by the Iran-Contra scandal.
- Reagan Revolution: A significant pivot point in U.S. political history, where the New Deal ideology of the 1930s was replaced by a socially conservative, free market ideology. Began with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan. The “New Democrats” of the 1990s were a response to the Reagan Revolution, as leftwing policies were perceived to be unpopular with modern voters.
- Sandra Day O’Connor: The first female Justice of the Supreme Court. Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, she was a moderate Republican regarded as a swing vote, favoring narrow rulings. Retired in 2006 and replaced by Samuel Alito.
- Iran-Contra Scandal: A scandal where the Reagan administration secretly sold arms to Iran in exchange for the release of Americans held hostage, and then used the profits from that sale to illegally support right-wing insurgents in Nicaragua. Led to calls for Reagan’s impeachment. In late 1992, President George H. W. Bush pardoned those under trial for their part in Iran-Contra.