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Reagan's Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All Hardcover – January 20, 2005
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The campaign for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination is the only political race that Ronald Reagan ever lost. Ironically, that defeat to Gerald Ford "changed the conservative movement, the Republican Party, America, and eventually the world," writes Craig Shirley in Reagan's Revolution. Further, the campaign "marked the point when conservatives took over the Republican Party and changed its message and its ideology." Reagan's views on such issues as tax cuts, aggressive anti-Communism, reductions in government spending, and the use of military power to protect American interests moved from radical ideas to part of the Republican platform after 1976. Tracing Reagan's rise to national power to the concession speech he made at the convention, Shirley explains in great detail how Reagan almost single-handedly took the Republican Party from its "death throes" to its resurgence. He may have lost the nomination, but he saved the party. Based on interviews with insiders who worked on the campaign and the journalists and pundits who covered it, Reagan's Revolution offers many telling anecdotes and fascinating insights into the race's build-up and conclusion, making it the first book to offer exhaustive coverage of this vital period in Reagan's life. --Shawn Carkonen
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Although well written and thoroughly researched, my chief complaint with this otherwise excellent book is that it is far more detailed than what I was looking for. For a Reagan scholar, which I am not, I suppose Reagan's Revolution is indispensable reading. It seems to leave no detail untold about the thrilling state-by-state primary battles leading up to the 1976 Republican convention in Kansas.
Reagan came very close to clinching the Republican nomination in 1976. It would be interesting to speculate on how a Reagan victory might have changed the course of history had his presidency begun in 1977 instead of 1981. But the subject of this book is not speculative; rather, it is the story of how Reagan's bold and relentless challenge to the incumbent Ford helped to reconstitute and solidify the conservative movement.
Reagan's Revolution certainly helps the reader understand the man who boldly bucked the trend of the more moderate side of the Republican Party that grew out of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Conservative policies that ultimately prevailed during Reagan's presidency were not fully evolved at this point of his political career. But Reagan's brand of conservative populism coupled with his magnetic personality did much to displace the elitism the dominated the leadership of the Republican Party prior to 1976 election.
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in an in-depth understanding of the 1976 election and the Republican Party. But if time or interest do not allow, one can also glean the essence of this scholarly book by reading the first few and final four chapters of the book. In sum, this book is the story of how Reagan's loss to Ford in 1976 was nonetheless the beginning of his path towards his monumental victory in 1980 and the seismic political shift that was marked by his presidency.
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