The Hollywood Smile That Lifted the Conservative Brand

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Ronald Reagan and his wife, the actress Nancy Davis Ronald Reagan and his wife, the actress Nancy Davis (Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum)

Rick Perlstein looks at the tumultuous political and economic situations of the 1970s. In January 1973 Richard Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam War and prepared for a triumphant second term—until televised Watergate hearings brought him down in 1974. Congressional investigators exposed the CIA for assassinating foreign leaders. While the national mood and economy soured, Ronald Reagan was inventing his conservative political brand—strong, optimistic, and patriotic. Perlstein’s book The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan examines this transformation in the Republican Party.

The Invisible Bridge, by Rick Perlstein



Rick Perlstein

Comments [12]

tom LI

jgarbuz - Ronnie didnt BRING down communism all by his lonesome...the Soviet Leaders, the Politburo, and the rampant cronyism all over the USSR had way more to do with it then Ronnie. He (really his predecessors thru him) perhaps, had his hand just touching the back of the USSR as the Soviets pushed their nation over the cliff. It was an unsustainable system as it ran into the modern, more globalized world.

Amy - what exactly has that 'Movement" truly accomplished? Oh right, you all get to drink and burp and act like the worst of men. Kudos! What was the great Feminist Innovation (business, legislative, cultural) that we're all benefiting from ..??

RUCB- I agree - but lets face it, while the GOP might be a pack of liars, the Dems have no spine to call them on any of it. And they lack any real leadership to make sure that they rise while the GOP eats itself from the inside out. Instead they wait to react to the GOP. GOP, Liars. DEMS, Feckless.

We lack Statesmanship across the boards. None of them already in or any coming up the ranks are worth a hanging chad...

Aug. 06 2014 04:50 PM

@Ed from Larchmont

"He might have won anyway but the great gift to Ronald Reagan was poor Jimmy Carter's term."

Just as without Dubya, there could not have been Obama. McCain/Palin were so clearly doomed that they appeared on SNL BEFORE THE ELECTION and acted as if they were done.

Aug. 06 2014 12:54 PM
jgarbuz from Queens


Maybe it should say No GOOD THINGS happened in the '70s? :)

Aug. 06 2014 12:53 PM

After WWII the USA was one of the few industrialized nations left standing. How did expectations resulting from this anomaly effect politics in the following decades?

Aug. 06 2014 12:39 PM

An unpaid for war sets the economy on its ear. The oil embargo makes getting a tank of gas an half day task. The GOP blames Jimmy Carter for the 'malaise' when he didn't start the fire. He was just made the whipping boy. This mislabeling of the Carter presidency continues through today.

The evidence I see is that conservatives are liars - Nixon, Agnew, Reagan, Bush II, Cheney. Anyone have evidence to the contrary?

Aug. 06 2014 12:38 PM
Ed from Larchmont

He might have won anyway but the great gift to Ronald Reagan was poor Jimmy Carter's term.

Aug. 06 2014 12:38 PM
Amy from Manhattan

"Nothing happened in the '70s"?? Hello? How about the feminist movement?!

Aug. 06 2014 12:35 PM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes NJ

Militant Immoderate

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
— Senator Barry Goldwater, acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination, San Francisco, July 16, 1964.

“Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlocks, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress.”
— Republican Michigan Governor George Romney in a letter to Barry Goldwater explaining why he did not endorse him, December 21, 1964.

Aug. 06 2014 12:28 PM

"...inventing his conservative political brand—strong, optimistic, and patriotic"

And a great cover for incredible amounts of personal greed.

Aug. 06 2014 12:13 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Reagan came to power riding on two basic promises, to bring down taxes and communism. I was still a liberal and deathly afraid of him, until I realized he was a good guy and determined to do the two things he promised he would do, and he did. He came through. Alas, he did leave behind a big deficit and lots of debt.

Aug. 06 2014 11:43 AM

Ronald Reagan is my definition of the phrase 'All Hat, No Cattle'. He was an actor who was good at playing a concerned conservative. His handlers used him to achieve some fairly nefarious and un-American ends. His management of the public debt was anything BUT conservative. Our debt would need to pass $35T in order for Barack Obama to have the same impact on our Treasury as Reagan.

Any President can make people feel good if the Congress lets him run eight years of deficit/stimulus. We're the idiots for letting that stimulus do nothing but enlarge the military and make some political donors richer. Twenty years later, we STILL had not learned and Dubya doubled our public debt.

To top it all off, Reagan traded arms to Iran and managed NOT to be impeached for it. A Democratic Congress gave him a big pass on that one.

And lastly, he dishonored his office and we dodged a bullet by permitting him to finish his term when the signs of his mental deterioration had become evident. The right thing to do was to step down and let Bush finish his term.

Aug. 06 2014 10:31 AM
Ed from Larchmont

His leadership abilities are looking very good these days. They see the Iceland summit now as a victory which led to the end of the USSR. Also President Reagan wasn't an ideologue as it was thought he would be and had a lot of common sense - and loved America.

Aug. 06 2014 08:12 AM

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