Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography

For Further Reading: Reagan and Reaganism

My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years, by Sarah Schulman (1994)

Novelist Schulman's compilation of the editorials, news articles, addresses, and book excerpts she has published in gay and feminist publications chronicles the growth of the gay and lesbian coalition, of ACT-UP, and of the Lesbian Avengers, 1981-93. Aspects of that development that she traces include early AIDS activism; battles against the Moral Majority and antigay violence; passage of the federal Hate Crime Statistics Act in 1990; the dispute over gay and lesbian books in the New York City public schools; the growth of federal AIDS initiatives and funding; and the rise of Ervin "Magic" Johnson as the ideal AIDS poster boy. To some of the pieces Schulman appends brief commentaries that update us on the development of the issues discussed and place them in greater perspective.  BUY IT HERE

Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader, by Dinesh D'Souza (1999)

Dinesh D'Souza rates America's 40th president as one of its greatest, right below Washington and Lincoln. He makes a forceful case for this rank, probably the best yet and perhaps the best possible. In the process, he analyzes Reagan's leadership style with remarkable clarity and subtlety. Reagan seemed ordinary in so many ways, still, millions of people believed in him and followed him. Moreover, he is the patron saint of the modern conservative movement--something that he did not create, yet nonetheless came to embody. Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader is for readers already well-disposed toward the former California governor. It may not change minds, but it will deepen the appreciation felt by Reagan's many admirers, who seem to miss the leader more with each passing day.  BUY IT HERE

When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan, by Peggy Noonan (2002)

From the bestselling author of What I Saw at the Revolution comes an elegiac tribute to one of America's most beloved leaders.

It is twenty years—a full generation—since Ronald Reagan first walked into the White House and ignited a revolution. From the beginning, he enjoyed the American people's affection but now, as he approaches the end of his life, he has received what he deserved even more: their deep respect.

What was the wellspring of his greatness? Peggy Noonan, bestselling author of the classic Reagan-era memoir What I Saw at the Revolution, former speechwriter, and now a columnist and contributing editor for The Wall Street Journal, argues that the secret of Reagan's success was no secret at all. It was his character—his courage, his kindness, his persistence, his honesty, and his almost heroic patience in the face of setbacks—that was the most important element of his success.

The one thing a man must bring into the White House with him if he is to succeed, Noonan contends, is a character that people come to recognize as high, sturdy, and reliable.

Noonan, renowned for her special insight into Ronald Reagan's history and personality, brings her own reflections to Reagan to bear in When Character Was King and discloses never-before-told stories from the former president's family, friends, and White House colleagues to reveal the true nature of a man even his opponents now view as a maker of big history.

Marked by incisive wit and elegant prose, When Character Was King will enlighten and move readers.  BUY IT HERE

Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years, by Haynes Johnson (2003)

Washington Post columnist Johnson here presents a stunning indictment of the Reagan administration that details its impact on social, economic and political life in America. He reviews abuses in the S&L institutions, in HUD, in the National Security Council, on Wall Street, in religious broadcasting and, most impressively, reveals how the administration renounced responsibility for ameliorating social distress. The book makes clear why the rich got richer and the poor poorer in the last decade. Johnson portrays President Reagan as a kind of Dr. Feelgood who fulfilled a public need for reassurance, and ironically evaded judgment during the Iran- contra affair because of his reputation for not being in charge. Summarizing what he sees as Reagan's legacy, the "ethical wastland of the eighties," the author points to growing fractionalization, subversion of the constitutional system, corruption and ineffectiveness of government, and cynicism and inattention of the American people.  BUY IT HERE

Reaganism and the Death of Representative Democracy, by Walter Williams (2003)

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan initiated a policy of diminishing the power of the federal government. He encouraged individuals to propel economic growth and domestic stability, cut taxes, deregulated businesses and, in many other arenas, shifted power to the states. Williams, a professor emeritus of public affairs at the University of Washington and a fierce opponent of Reaganism, argues that, instead of furthering growth, this political doctrine transformed the Founding Fathers' ideal of a representative democracy into a government of the wealthy, for the wealthy. It left, he says, America vulnerable to decline at numerous levels. To effectively counter what he views as the greatest transformation in political philosophy since FDR, the author claims that the two "earthquakes" of September 11 and the Enron scandals exposed the structural weaknesses of the post-Reagan government policies and their movement toward plutocracy. Readers who fear, like Williams, that George W. Bush is continuing Reagan's trend will much useful analysis here.  BUY IT HERE

The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008, by Sean Wilentz (2008)

Distinguished Princeton historian Wilentz--winner of a Bancroft Prize for The Rise of American Democracy--makes an eloquent and compelling case for America's Right as the defining factor shaping the country's political history over the past 35 years. Wilentz argues that the unproductive liberalism of the Carter years was a momentary pause in a general tidal surge toward a new politics of conservatism defined largely by the philosophy and style of Ronald Reagan. Even Bill Clinton, he shows, tacitly admitted the ascendance of many Reaganesque core values in the American mind by styling himself as a centrist "New Democrat" and moving himself and his party to the right. Wilentz postulates Reagan as the perfect man at the ideal moment, not just ruling his eight years in the White House, but also casting a long shadow on all that followed (a shadow, one might add, still being felt in the Republican presidential campaign today). While examining in detail the low points of Reagan's presidency, from Iran-Contra to his initial belligerence toward the Soviet Union, Wilentz concludes in his superb account that Reagan must be considered one of the great presidents: he reshaped the geopolitical map of the world as well as the American judiciary and bureaucracy, and uplifted an American public disheartened by Vietnam and the grim Carter years. While much has been written by Reagan admirers, Wilentz says, "his achievement looks much more substantial than anything the Reagan mythmakers have said in his honor."  BUY IT HERE

The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989,  by Steven F. Hayward (2010)

Hero. It was a word most Americans weren’t using much in 1980. As they waited on gas and unemployment lines, as their enemies abroad grew ever more aggressive, and as one after another their leaders failed them, Americans began to believe the country’s greatness was fading.

Yet within two years the recession and gas shortage were over. Before the decade was out, the Cold War was won, the Berlin Wall came crashing down, and America was once more at the height of prosperity. And the nation had a new hero: Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Reagan’s greatness is today widely acknowledged, but his legacy is still misunderstood. Democrats accept the effectiveness of his foreign policy but ignore the success of his domestic programs; Republicans cheer his victories over liberalism while ignoring his bitter battles with his own party’s establishment; historians speak of his eloquence and charisma but gloss over his brilliance in policy and clarity of vision.

From Steven F. Hayward, the critically acclaimed author of The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, comes the first complete, true story of this misunderstood, controversial, and deeply consequential presidency. Hayward pierces the myths and media narratives, masterfully documenting exactly what transpired behind the scenes during Reagan’s landmark presidency and revealing his real legacy.

What emerges is a compelling portrait of a man who arrived in office after thirty years of practical schooling in the ways of politics and power, possessing a clear vision of where he wanted to take the nation and a willingness to take firm charge of his own administration. His relentless drive to shrink government and lift the burdens of high taxation was born of a deep appreciation for the grander blessings of liberty. And it was this same outlook, extended to the world’s politically and economically enslaved nations, that shaped his foreign policy and lent his statecraft its great unifying power.

Over a decade in the making, and filled with fresh revelations, surprising insights, and an unerring eye for the telling detail, this provocative and authoritative book recalls a time when true leadership inspired a fallen nation to pick itself up, hold its head high, and take up the cause of freedom once again.  BUY IT HERE.

The Man Who Sold the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America, by William Kleinknecht (2010)

Crime writer William Kleinknecht (New Ethnic Mobs) turns his attention to a different kind of organized crime in this critical reassessment of the lasting influence of Ronald Reagan's presidency—and his hand in the current economic crisis. According to the author, Reagan and his ideological fellow travelers abdicated the government's regulatory role to oversee banking, manufacturing, telecommunications, the media, mining and public welfare, leaving Americans without protection from the avarice of shortsighted corporations. While well-documented and forceful, the book has a strident tone that might put off the very people Kleinknecht tries to persuade—those who have lionized Reagan as the people's president. More crucially, the author tries to lay everything from the decline of America's image overseas to the 2008 meltdown of the global banking system at Reagan's feet, and it is often unclear whether Reagan was the mastermind or simply the figurehead behind which other agents carried out their own plans independent of the president's will. Whatever Reagan's complicity, the policies carried out in his name and under his leadership clearly changed the relationship between the American people and their government, and rarely, the author shows, for the better.  BUY IT HERE

Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future, by Will Bunch (2010)

In an attempt to challenge the legend that has sprung up around Ronald Reagan's presidency over the past decade, Bunch, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, argues that the Reagan myth is dangerous because, unlike other American presidents held up as heroes, like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson, reverence for Reagan did not emerge organically. Rather, the GOP hatched the Reagan myth, feeding it to the news media for purposes that were essentially partisan in nature... pulling off a maneuver that was unprecedented in American history. The result has been a simplified reconstruction of Reagan, from far from universally popular president to the man who ended the Cold War and spurred unprecedented economic growth. Bunch contends Reagan was responsible for neither, at least not singlehandedly. Instead, he claims that the 40th president's real achievement lay in his ability to compromise, an element of his leadership conservatives have ignored since he left office. Neither Bunch's arguments nor his prose are powerful enough to do more than slightly tarnish Reagan's halo, but his book capably puts into perspective an imperfect but fascinating administration.  BUY IT HERE

Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign that Changed America, by Craig Shirley (2011)

As late as Election Day, headlines across the country blared that the race was “too close to call.”

Even on the verge of his historic triumph in the 1980 presidential election, political observers continued to underestimate Ronald Wilson Reagan.

In Rendezvous with Destiny, the long-awaited follow-up to his widely praised account of Reagan’s insurgent 1976 presidential campaign, Craig Shirley tells the incredible behind-the-scenes story of Reagan’s improbable run to the White House in 1980—of how the “too close to call” election became a landslide victory over incumbent Jimmy Carter and independent candidate John Anderson.

And this, Shirley shows, was no ordinary election. It dramatically altered the course of American—and world—history. Reagan’s victory gave rise to a new generation of conservatism, ended liberalism’s half-century reign of dominance, reversed the second-worst economic crisis in American history, and led to the demise of the mighty Soviet Union.

To write Rendezvous with Destiny, Shirley gained unprecedented access to 1980 campaign files and interviewed more than 150 insiders—from Reagan’s closest advisers and family members to Jimmy Carter himself. The result is the first comprehensive history of the hard-fought 1980 campaign, a gripping account that follows Reagan’s unlikely path from his bitter defeat on the floor of the 1976 Republican convention, through his underreported “wilderness years,” through grueling primary fights in which he knocked out several Republican heavyweights, through an often-nasty general election campaign complicated by the presence of a third-party candidate (not to mention the looming shadow of Ted Kennedy), to Reagan’s astounding victory on Election Night in 1980. Shirley’s years of intensive research have enabled him to relate countless untold stories—including, at long last, the solution to one of the most enduring mysteries in politics: just how Reagan’s campaign got hold of Carter’s debate briefing books.

Rendezvous with Destiny reveals how Reagan successfully battled the headwinds of the national media, the Republican Party establishment, and even his own campaign team to become one of America’s greatest chief executives.  BUY IT HERE