“Reagan Rising” Review – Booklist

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Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976–1980.

Shirley, Craig (Author)

Mar 2017. 432 p. Broadside, hardcover, $29.99. (9780062456557). 973.927.

In 1976, Ronald Reagan failed in his second try for the Republican nomination for president (the first was in 1968), and it seemed likely to be his last. According to Shirley, the Republican establishment felt the country would never accept a hard Right conservative. Yet Reagan persisted and won the presidency decisively four years later. In his third book about Reagan, Shirley, a journalist, biographer, and staunch admirer, tracks the period from Reagan’s 1976 defeat to his victory at the Republican convention in July 1980. This is an engrossing, richly detailed saga filled with political figures obscure and familiar. Shirley doesn’t soft-pedal the vicious political infighting within the Republican Party. Many of the political operatives, including some Reagan supporters, aren’t shown in a favorable light. Reagan, however, remained largely above and unsullied by the fray, continuing to effectively preach his message of optimism and a vision that the economy, liberated from government interference, would thrive. Both political junkies and general readers should appreciate this account of the triumph of a conservative icon.

—Jay Freeman