“This typically excellent, highly original work from Robert Mann will emerge as the standard interpretation of Reagan’s ideological evolution—and his development as a major political figure. Mann stresses both continuity in Reagan’s belief system and recognition of the pre-gubernatorial era’s importance. A must-read.”
Robert David Johnson, professor of history at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center and author of All the Way with LBJ: The 1964 Presidential Election
“With empathy and critical insight, Robert Mann guides us on a journey through Ronald Reagan’s personal and political awakening. Anyone who wishes to understand the roots of modern conservatism will profit from this engaging and deeply researched study of Reagan’s ideological evolution from New Deal liberal to right-wing warrior. Love or loathe him, this book will help you understand him.”
Joshua M. Zeitz, author of Building the Great Society: Inside Lyndon Johnson’s White House
Becoming Ronald Reagan: The Rise of a Conservative Icon
In the 1960s transitioning from acting to politics was rare. Ronald Reagan was not the first to do it, but he was the first to jump from the screen to the stump and on to credibility as a presidential contender. Reagan’s transformation from struggling liberal actor to influential conservative spokesman in five years—and then to the California governorship six years later—is a remarkable and compelling story.
In Becoming Ronald Reagan Robert Mann explores Reagan’s early life and his career during the 1950s and early 1960s: his growing desire for acclaim in high school and college, his political awakening as a young Hollywood actor, his ideological evolution in the 1950s as he traveled the country for General Electric, the refining of his political skills during this period, his growing aversion to big government, and his disdain for the totalitarian leaders in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. All these experiences and more shaped Reagan’s politics and influenced his career as an elected official.
Mann not only demonstrates how Reagan the actor became Reagan the political leader and how the liberal became a conservative, he also shows how the skills Reagan learned and the lessons he absorbed from 1954 to 1964 made him the inspiring leader so many Americans remember and revere to this day. Becoming Ronald Reagan, then, is an indelible portrait of a true American icon and a politician like none other.
“Ronald Reagan took one of the most unconventional paths to the presidency in American history. Robert Mann tells this part of Reagan’s remarkable story in lively, enlightening prose. Ronald Reagan evolved from rags to riches, liberal to conservative, and Democratic to Republican. But as Mann masterfully shows, Reagan’s innate talents and personal genuineness were evident at each stage of his transformation into an icon who will never ride into the sunset for conservatives.”
Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and author of The Kennedy Half-Century