AP U.S. History Notes: Period 9

April 12, 2024
AP U.S. History Notes: Period 9

The last unit in the AP U.S. History course and on the exam is Period 9. APUSH Period 9 covers events that took place from 1980 to the present. Get ready for your AP exam by reviewing what happened in APUSH Period 9, including key exam topics and vocabulary. Take your test prep to the next level by checking out Barron’s AP U.S. History Premium Test Prep Book and our free AP U.S. History Podcast.

AP U.S. History Notes: Period 9 Timeline

This graphic gives a brief timeline of key events that took place during AP U.S. History Period 9.

AP U.S. History Notes: Period 9 Overview

The ninth and final period covered on the AP U.S. history exam takes place between 1980 and the present and is referred to as “Political and Foreign Policy Adjustments in a Globalized World.” The United States has had to adapt to a changing world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The world of the recent past has been filled with challenges and possibilities. The United States faces divisions at home along ideological and cultural lines and has been compelled to adjust its foreign policy to meet changing global dynamics. The U.S. has also had to adapt to new technological and scientific advances and to economic globalization.

5 Things to Know About AP U.S. History Period 9

1. During the 1980s, a renewed conservative movement rose in importance and achieved several political goals. This movement rejected liberal views on the role of the government and embraced “traditional” social values. It continued to exert influence over public discourse over the following decades.

2. President Ronald Reagan had gained prominence earlier in his career as a strong anti-Communist. He brought this rhetoric to the White House and pursued an aggressive anti-Communist agenda. His interventionist approach to foreign policy set the tone for the following administrations. The United States redefined its role in the world in the 1990s in response to the ending of the Cold War.

3. Scientific and technological developments have transformed contemporary American society. While new technologies have transformed daily life, they have had varied effects on the American economy. On the one hand, productivity in many sectors has increased as the United States has become more enmeshed in the global economy. On the other hand, the country has seen the gap between the wealthy and the poor dramatically widen as wages have stagnated in many sectors.

4. The United States experienced major demographic shifts in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, contributing to significant cultural and political consequences.

5. As the United States moved into the twenty-first century, it faced a series of challenges related to its role in the world. The terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 caused the United States to focus its foreign policy on the war on terrorism. The actions taken by the United States, both at home and abroad, have generated debate about security and civil liberties. In addition, different presidents have taken markedly different approaches in regard to America’s relationship with the international community.

AP U.S. History Notes: Key Topics in Period 9

Reagan, Conservatism, and Partisan Divisions

  • Conservative Movement: The conservative movement has always had three distinct tendencies that sometimes have worked in unison and sometimes have been in conflict. First, there are Cold War conservatives, focused on containing or rolling back communist regimes abroad. The second tendency is made up of the pro-business economic conservatives. These conservatives argue for lower corporate taxes, deregulation, and an economic atmosphere friendly to the priorities of big business. The third tendency within the conservative movement is the religious and cultural wing. This movement gained steam as tradition-minded people grew frustrated with what they saw as the excesses of the counterculture of the 1960s.
  • Reaganomics: President Ronald Reagan advanced a series of economic initiatives that bear the name “Reaganomics.” Reagan supported economic policies that favored big business. He based this on a belief in the effectiveness of supply-side economics. This approach to the economy stressed stimulating the supply side of the economy—manufacturers, banks, insurance corporations. The idea is that if there is growth in the supply side, there will be general economic growth, and the benefits of that growth will reach everyone.
  • Impeachment proceedings: Impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton constituted an important turning point in the deterioration of relations between the two main political parties. Clinton was accused of having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. Clinton denied the accusations publicly and also before a federal grand jury. When Clinton was later forced to admit the affair, Congressional Republicans felt they had evidence of impeachable crimes—lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998. He was found “not guilty” by the Senate (two-thirds are needed for conviction).
  • The Election of 2000: The 2000 election for president reflected political divisions in the United States and was one of the most contentious in American history. As votes were counted in Florida, it became evident that the tally was split almost evenly between the Democratic candidate, Vice President Al Gore, and Republican candidate George W. Bush. This would not have been such a problem beyond Florida but, based on the electoral votes of the other 49 states, neither candidate had 270 electoral votes, the number needed to be declared the winner, without Florida’s electoral votes.
  • Bush v. Gore: After several weeks of legal wrangling in Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed an order by the Florida Supreme Court to do a hand recount of several counties in Florida. The decision in Bush v. Gore was five to four. By overturning a state decision, the conservative members of the Court broke with their tendency in the 1990s to assert the power of states within the federal system. Critics contend that the partisan concerns of the justices might have shaped the decision.
  • Barack Obama: The election of 2008 resulted in a profound milestone in American history—the election of the first African American to the presidency. Barack Obama’s victory was the result of a series of factors. First, his campaign successfully held off a strong challenge for the Democratic nomination by Senator Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s bid for the nomination, if successful, could have resulted in a different historic milestone—the first female president in the United States. The Obama campaign was able to harness the power of the internet, as well as the candidate’s abundant charisma, to build a large base.
  • Donald Trump: The election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016 demonstrated the continued strength of the conservative movement. At the same time, the candidacy and presidency of Trump opened up fissures within the conservative movement that, in turn, have led to much soul-searching and hand-wringing in regard to the direction of the Republican Party.
  • Joseph Biden: The election of 2020 witnessed the Democratic candidate, Joseph Biden, defeating the sitting president, Donald Trump. The election took place during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and amidst ongoing protests around race and policing. This was the first time a sitting president was not reelected since 1992.
  • Capitol Attack: The efforts of President Trump and his supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 election culminated in a rally in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021, the day that Congress, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would count the electoral votes and formalize Joseph Biden’s victory. Following the rally, approximately 2,000 to 2,500 of the protestors marched to the Capitol. Many participated in an attack on the Capitol building, breaking through police lines. The attackers vandalized property and assaulted law-enforcement officers. Members of Congress and Pence were evacuated from the building. After delays, additional law enforcement officers and National Guard troops were deployed to the Capital. After the building had been cleared of rioters, Pence and Congress reconvened and certified the electoral count in the early hours of January 7.
  • NAFTA: President Bill Clinton broke with organized labor and environmental groups by embracing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA was ratified by Congress in 1993. The agreement eliminated all trade barriers and tariffs among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
  • The Great Recession: Starting in late 2007, the country faced its most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. The Great Recession, as the economic crisis of late 2007 to 2009 has been labeled, led to high unemployment, falling wages, and a housing crisis characterized by widespread foreclosures.
  • Affordable Care Act: The Affordable Care Act has dramatically reduced the number of uninsured Americans. According to a 2021 report by the Department of Health and Human Services, over 31 million Americans have attained health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act—approximately 11 million people acquired coverage through the federal and state exchanges, nearly 15 million were made eligible for Medicaid by the act, over 1 million were covered by the act’s “Basic Health Program,” and over 4 million previously eligible adults enrolled under expanded Medicaid provisions.
  • Me Too Movement: The women’s rights movement has also called attention to sexual harassment and assault through the Me Too Movement (#MeToo Movement). The Me Too Movement has shed new light on workplace dynamics and has empowered women to break the silence around these issues. The movement gained prominence in the aftermath of accusations of sexual abuse by movie producer Harvey Weinstein. In 2020, Weinstein was found guilty of two felonies and sentenced to twenty-three years in prison.
  • Same-Sex Marriage: By 2015, the aggregate of polls showed that nearly sixty percent of Americans favored legalized same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court took heed. In 2015, in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right that must be guaranteed to same-sex couples. The decision cited the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Black Lives Matter: The Black Lives Matter movement emerged in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watch coordinator, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager. A larger and more sustained wave of street protests began in the spring of 2020 in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.

The End of the Cold War

  • Afghanistan: Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, which had been improving since Nixon’s détente overtures in the 1970s, soured after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (1979). President Jimmy Carter suspended grain sales to the Soviets in protest of the invasion. He also successfully pushed for a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
  • “Window of Vulnerability:” President Reagan was determined to challenge the Soviet “evil empire.” He initiated several weapons programs, vowing to close what he called a “window of vulnerability”—the ability of Soviet missiles to attack and decimate American missile locations before the United States could adequately respond. He began research on the Strategic Defense Initiative, dubbed “Star Wars” by critics, and initiated the costly MX missile program.
  • The Reagan Doctrine: The Reagan administration supported governments that were anti-Communist, including regimes that were undemocratic or repressive. This foreign policy came to be known as the Reagan Doctrine.
  • Berlin Wall: By the end of 1989, every Communist government in Europe—Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Albania—was either toppled or transformed into a non-Communist regime. The iconic image of the movement was the November 1989 demolition of the Berlin Wall by Berliners from both sides. The wall, separating West Berlin from East Berlin, was a symbol of the rift between the Communist Bloc countries and the Western countries. By 1991, the Soviet Union itself had collapsed, ending Communism in Europe.
  • Operation Desert Storm: After Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990 in an attempt to gain more control over the region’s oil reserves, Bush organized a thirty-four-nation coalition to challenge the move. In late 1990, after fruitless negotiations, President Bush gave Hussein approximately six weeks (until January 15, 1991) to withdraw from Kuwait. When Hussein did not act, the coalition initiated “Operation Desert Storm,” defeating Iraqi forces and driving them from Kuwait by February 1991.
  • Ethnic cleansing: Under Communism, the former Yugoslavia had been a patchwork of different ethnicities. After Communism fell in 1989, the country split into several smaller nations. Ethnic violence developed as Serbian forces attempted to gain control of areas of Bosnia with large Serbian populations. In the process, Serbian forces initiated a campaign to remove Bosnians, by force if necessary, from these areas. This “ethnic cleansing” campaign resulted in atrocities against the civilian population and became a focus of concern in the media and among foreign countries.

A Changing Economy

  • Computers: The use of computers has transformed the American workplace. Apple launched a personal computer in 1977, and IBM followed a few years later. In the early 1980s, Microsoft developed operating systems for IBM “PCs” (and, later, for the PCs of rival companies). Through the course of the 1980s, personal computers became ubiquitous in workplaces.
  • Digital Revolution: The impact of the digital revolution on the American economy has been the subject of a great deal of debate. Generally, economists cite an increase in productivity growth—a useful measure of an economy’s overall health and efficiency—starting in 1995, after years of slow growth from 1973 to 1995. This increase in productivity is generally attributed to the widespread use of information technologies, which enabled workers to perform many functions with computers and to the increase in the speed of communications across the globe. However, others cite the changing nature of work in the digital age and the growing income gap as factors that prevent many ordinary Americans from enjoying the fruits of the digital revolution.
  • World Wide Web: information. In the late 1980s, universities in the United States created a computer network to facilitate the sharing of research while, in Switzerland, engineers developed the World Wide Web—a system of interlinked hypertext documents that organizes electronic information transmitted and accessed via the internet.
  • The Service Sector: The service sector grew significantly in the period of 1980 to the present. The service sector of the economy is also called the “tertiary sector.” The tertiary, or service, sector involves the production of services rather than end products. Such services enable and enhance other sectors of the economy. The service sector includes shipping and trucking, banking services, information technology, waste disposal, education, government, health care, legal services, and a whole host of retail and food-service operations. Currently, seventy percent of jobs in the United States are in the service sector. The growth of the service sector illustrates a profound shift in the American economy from the production of things to the providing of services.
  • Gig Economy: The decline of traditional wage labor and the growth of the internet have contributed to a growing number of Americans participating in the “gig economy.” A gig is a temporary work engagement, with the worker being paid only for that specific job. TaskRabbit and Uber are prominent companies within the gig economy. It is estimated that, as of 2016, thirty-six percent of American workers are involved in the gig economy, either as a primary or a secondary source of income.
  • Income Gap: Since the 1970s, economists have noted that the income gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown increasingly wide. The incomes for the top-earning one percent of households increased by about 275 percent between 1979 and 2007, while the middle 60 percent of wage-earners saw their incomes rise by just under 40 percent during the same period. The flattening of wages for the middle class and the poor has meant an increase in debt for many Americans and, for many population groups, a decrease in consumer spending.

Migration and Immigration, 1980 to the Present

  • “Sun Belt:” The states of the “sun belt”—notably California, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida—have seen remarkable growth. This trend was seen as early as World War II when defense-related industries there attracted large numbers of workers. Affordable air conditioning also played a role in attracting migrants from within the United States to the sun belt. Florida has become a prime destination for retirees from colder parts of the country. Immigration from Latin America accounts for much of the growth of the region.
  • Immigration Policy: The changing profile of the population of the United States has raised concerns among some Americans and has generated a broad debate around immigration policy. Some Americans have a more welcoming attitude toward immigration into the United States, focusing on its positive social and economic impacts; others fear that large numbers of immigrants, many entering the country illegally, will take jobs from Americans and draw on public resources.
  • DACA: The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protected minors whose parents did not enter the country legally, some many years ago. At the same time that President Obama tried to create pathways to legal status for undocumented immigrants, he also increased the number of deportations of illegal immigrants, focusing on those who had recently crossed the border and those with criminal records.
  • “Muslim Ban:” In January 2017, President Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning entry into the United States of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, as well as indefinitely suspending the entry of Syrian refugees. The order was criticized by members of both political parties as constituting a “Muslim ban” and led to widespread protests. It stalled in the court system and subsequently was replaced by a different executive order in March 2017, which maintained a travel ban but made exceptions for green card holders and people who received visas before the ban went into effect.

Defining America’s Role in the World in the 21st Century

  • September 11, 2001: On the morning of September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists affiliated with the al-Qaeda network hijacked four domestic airplanes. The plan was to turn the airplanes into missiles that would destroy symbols of American power. One plane was flown into the Pentagon, inflicting heavy damage, and one plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the hijackers were overwhelmed by passengers. The other two airplanes did the most damage, crashing into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
  • Afghanistan & Iraq: The terrorist attacks of 2001 were soon followed by President George W. Bush initiating military action on two fronts—Afghanistan and Iraq. The United States initiated military actions in Afghanistan in 2001, less than a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks. American forces overthrew the Taliban, the government that had given refuge to al-Qaeda.
  • The Patriot Act: The Patriot Act was passed in 2001, six weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It greatly expanded the government’s authority in the fight against terrorism. President George W. Bush argued that such measures were necessary to safeguard the nation against future terrorist attacks. Some critics have said that the act impinges on people’s civil liberties.
  • Department of Homeland Security: The creation of the Department of Homeland Security was a result of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was created in 2003, absorbing the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It is a cabinet-level department, with the responsibility of protecting the United States from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
  • “SEAL Team Six:” In 2011, the Obama administration was able to report that a Navy “SEAL Team Six” had killed Osama bin Laden. However, to the disappointment of many of Obama’s supporters, the president continued many of the controversial antiterrorism policies begun during the Bush administration.
  • Edward Snowden: President Obama renewed a clandestine program known as PRISM, which allows the National Security Agency to conduct mass data mining of phone, internet, and other communications—including, under certain circumstances, those of United States citizens. The clandestine program was exposed by computer specialist and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. The revelations revived the ongoing debate among Americans around the protection of civil liberties in the age of global terrorism.
  • Global Warming: Since the early 1970s, scientists have become aware of a trend toward warmer global temperatures. Some became convinced that this warming trend was caused by trapped greenhouse gasses, which were in turn caused by human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels. In the 1990s and 2000s, a virtual consensus emerged in the scientific community around the connection between global warming and the emissions generated by the burning of fossil fuels. Calls were made to limit the human activities linked to global warming.
  • The Bush Doctrine: President Bush shifted American foreign policy away from its traditional reliance on deterrence and containment. He put forth a more aggressive approach in the fall of 2002 that called for pre-emptive strikes against nations perceived as threats to the United States. In a speech at West Point Military Academy, Bush identified an “axis of evil” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. This reliance on pre-emptive warfare is known as the Bush Doctrine.
  • Ukraine: Russia’s aggressive military operations against Ukraine alarmed and angered leaders in the West. In 2014, protests in Ukraine against its pro-Russian president led to the establishment of a pro-Western interim government. This turn of events coincided with unrest in Crimea, a region in southern Ukraine with a Russian-majority population. Putin then occupied the region with Russian troops, and soon after, a referendum in Crimea was hastily held, with the majority calling for annexation by Russia. These moves were seen as illegal by the United States and the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama imposed sanctions on several wealthy businessmen and advisors close to Russian president Putin. Conflict continued as separatists, again aided by Russia, engaged in fighting in eastern Ukraine. The United States imposed additional sanctions on Russian individuals and companies.
  • China: Tensions between China and the United States deteriorated under President Donald Trump (2017–2021). A variety of issues divided the two countries, including American relations with the government of Taiwan, Chinese claims of sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea, and Chinese treatment of Uyghur people. The biggest rift occurred over trade, with Trump imposing levies on imported Chinese steel and aluminum in 2018, and China retaliating with tariffs on over 100 American items.