The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 is a convenient signpost for the movement represented by the goons of our present times. The significance of Ronald Reagan is that he represented a conscious decision to embrace fantasy over reality, to celebrate ignorance over inconvenient reality, to use simplistic slogans over nuanced deliberations, and to engage in naked agression over the pretence of diplomacy. Reagan was not so much different from Jimmy Carter insofar as the outcomes were pretty much the same (see El Salvador for instance), but in the inane justifications, and the abusrd evidence he and his handlers would use as arguments for his destructive policies.
Ronald Reagan was an actor, and a simple-minded individual as well. He was therefore perfect in acting the role of a heroic American president, in a simple-minded fantasy just perfect for all the simpletons who had been mourning their lost privileges and shattered delusions since the 1960s.
Here's a more polite version. With some unfortunate praise for the Democratic Party:
It took 40 years because, as standard histories have it, Democrats imploded in the late 1960s by supposedly taking liberalism too far. In a sense the standard histories are right. America’s essentially conservative sensibilities turned reactionary as blacks got too free, women too equal, students too questioning and war protesters too effective. To the white male minority that had had its way since the founding of the Republic, the majority of the population wasn’t supposed to take its rights so literally. Hence law-and-order-Nixon’s victory in 1968 (before lawless-and-delusional-Nixon’s unraveling in 1974). Hence the “Reagan Revolution” of 1980, that dyslexic homage to 1890s America and the re-flowering of capitalism without a human face.
The Republican ascendancy was fill-in-the-blanks opportunism. Conservatism since 1980 has been an era of reaction and regression — a dismantling of the American experiment as an ideal of egalitarian opportunity for most, of positive freedoms from want and insecurity for most, and a re-branding of America into the land of the opportunist, the selfish, the Gordon Gekko-admiring greedster. There is a void this time, not only of leadership but of humanity.