“Reagan Rising” featured in the Season: Summer Reading List for 2017

4. Craig Shirley, Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980 (Broadside Books, 2017). This is Craig Shirley’s fourth book on Ronald Reagan and his presidency, and probably the most unlikely. In Reagan Rising, he tells Reagan’s story from his razor-close loss to President Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination to his landslide election as President of the United States in the 1980 election. But Shirley also tells the story of Reagan’s intellectual and political development — in many ways Reagan in 1980 was different from the Reagan of 1964 or 1976. Shirley also lays out the redefinition of the Republican Party and the transformation of the American political landscape. I worked as a teenage campaign volunteer in the 1976 Reagan campaign, responsible for enlisting South Florida high school students in the Reagan cause. It was in the course of that campaign that I met Ronald Reagan and saw him in unscripted moments before a campaign event as well as behind the podium. I knew then that Ronald Reagan was a man of ideas, passionately held. I knew the outlines of the story from 1976 to 1980, but Craig Shirley now offers the definitive narrative of those years in Reagan Rising. Readers will understand today’s political landscape far better after reading this book.

Excerpt:

Running for president is never easy, and it was especially hard for Ronald Reagan, as he had not just the usual obstacles to overcome, but also those of the skeptics in his own party and a very hostile and malicious national media. He had a halfhearted attempt in 1968, ran full out in 1976, and even more so in 1980. But then, he was a fully formed American conservative. Many times, however, he heard from critics in the GOP establishment that he was ‘just an actor.’ But as he wisely said later, in the waning days of his presidency, after being asked if he’d learned anything in Hollywood that helped him to be a good president, ‘I’ve wondered how you could do this job and not be an actor.’ …. Reagan remains one of the most fascinating figures of history and the American presidency, in part because he was a constantly evolving individual. his worldview in 1964 was not his worldview in 1980. his conservatism had changed,  from simply being against the intrusions of government to the more positive advance of individual freedom.”

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