Skip to Main Content

Reaganland

America's Right Turn 1976-1980

From the bestselling author of Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge comes the dramatic conclusion of how conservatism took control of American political power.

Over two decades, Rick Perlstein has published three definitive works about the emerging dominance of conservatism in modern American politics. With the saga’s final installment, he has delivered yet another stunning literary and historical achievement.

In late 1976, Ronald Reagan was dismissed as a man without a political future: defeated in his nomination bid against a sitting president of his own party, blamed for President Gerald Ford’s defeat, too old to make another run. His comeback was fueled by an extraordinary confluence: fundamentalist preachers and former segregationists reinventing themselves as militant crusaders against gay rights and feminism; business executives uniting against regulation in an era of economic decline; a cadre of secretive “New Right” organizers deploying state-of-the-art technology, bending political norms to the breaking point—and Reagan’s own unbending optimism, his ability to convey unshakable confidence in America as the world’s “shining city on a hill.”

Meanwhile, a civil war broke out in the Democratic party. When President Jimmy Carter called Americans to a new ethic of austerity, Senator Ted Kennedy reacted with horror, challenging him for reelection. Carter’s Oval Office tenure was further imperiled by the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, near-catastrophe at a Pennsylvania nuclear plant, aviation accidents, serial killers on the loose, and endless gas lines.

Backed by a reenergized conservative Republican base, Reagan ran on the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”—and prevailed. Reaganland is the story of how that happened, tracing conservatives’ cutthroat strategies to gain power and explaining why they endure four decades later.

Meg Handler

Rick Perlstein is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of ReaganNixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, a New York Times bestseller picked as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by over a dozen publications; and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, which won the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history and appeared on the best books of the year lists of The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. His essays and book reviews have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The NationThe Village Voice, and Slate, among others. A contributing editor and board member of In These Times magazine, he lives in Chicago.

Gabra Zackman knows romance. Her clever and “thrilling romantic caper” (Library Journal) Bod Squad series was inspired by the more than one hundred romance and women’s fiction titles she has narrated for audio. She divides her time between her native New York City and Denver, Colorado.

More books from this author: Rick Perlstein

You may also like: History Staff Picks