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The Search for Reagan

Posted on Monday, April 15, 2024
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by Aaron Flanigan
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AMAC EXCLUSIVE

President Reagan presents an introduction for the Horatio Alger Association

Few presidents in modern American history have come close to commanding the widespread admiration, intergenerational influence, and lasting political footprint of President Ronald Reagan. While many authors have detailed the life, career, and political accomplishments of the 40th U.S. president, one new book, The Search for Reagan: The Appealing Intellectual Conservatism of Ronald Reagan by Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, explores what is perhaps Reagan’s greatest accomplishment of all: his lasting intellectual mark on the American conservative movement.

Shirley, a New York Times bestselling presidential historian who ran an independent expenditure in support of Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 campaigns, has penned several books on Reagan’s life and career, including on his 1976 and 1980 campaigns, his presidency, and his post-presidency.

“All of my previous books were about certain points in Reagan’s career,” Shirley told AMAC Newsline in a recent interview. “But I wanted to do one that explores his thinking, and his mind, and his intellect, and his compassion—while also refuting some of the lies that have been spun by the left over the past several years.”

Shirley shared that he chose the title of The Search for Reagan “quite deliberately” to evoke Martin Gilbert’s 1997 biography of Winston Churchill, In Search of Churchill, in hopes that his book will teach Americans about Reagan’s “unacknowledged” intellect and compassion—and clear his name in the wake of left-wing historical revisionism.

Shirley notes in the preface of his book that Reagan was “an idea man, grabbing and embracing a new form of conservatism” that expanded “beyond its previous boundaries”—grounded in ideas like tax cuts “for the sole purpose of restoring power to the individual,” the Strategic Defense Initiative, enterprise zones, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, and a more resilient opposition to communist tyranny overseas.

“He introduced one new idea after another and, in doing so, transformed the ‘Grand Old Party’ into a ‘brand spanking new party,’” Shirley writes. “Too many people did not grasp that Reagan was not a reactionary but instead a revolutionary.”

The lessons of the Reagan Revolution, Shirley told AMAC Newsline, remain relevant to this day.

Shirley noted that from 1963 to 1980, American morale had been “beaten down into the gutter” with the assassination of President Kennedy, the war in Vietnam, the failures of the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies, high inflation, high gas prices, and the ascendancy of left-wing culture.

Reagan, Shirley said, “knew that a happy people are a productive people—and if the morale of the United States was good, then they would be productive, and they would be creative”—particularly when it came to finding ways to defeat the Soviet Union and resist the ideology of collectivism.

This approach of optimism and innovation resulted in, among other initiatives, the arms race against the Soviets and the ratification of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which resulted in the elimination of vast swaths of nuclear missiles.

Even as Reagan fought against the Soviets, Shirley continued, he also faced blistering opposition from Democrats and other national political forces at home and abroad. “It’s such a good example of standing by your principles and being resolute—because you know in the end, you’re going to be right, as long as you stick by your guts.”

Today, as the U.S. reels from historic inflation, an energy crisis, and an invasion along the southern border, Shirley said our leaders can learn from Reagan’s approach of finding political solutions outside the bounds of traditional partisanship and rigid ideology.

On the immigration front, Shirley said that Reagan would have sought to create stronger economic conditions in Central America, thereby incentivizing citizens of other nations to remain within their own countries.

On the foreign policy front, Shirley predicted that the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East would never have happened had Reagan been president at the time. “If you’re weak like Joe Biden—if you’re a coward like Joe Biden—it invites attack by your enemies. And that’s exactly what has happened,” Shirley continued.

“If you’re strong like a Donald Trump or a Ronald Reagan, then your enemies don’t dare attack because they know that you’re going to counterattack, and you’re going to counterattack with 10 times more force than you were attacked with.”

Shirley then noted that, ironically, it was a liberal historian, John Patrick Diggins, who perhaps best encapsulated the greatness of the Reagan presidency. In Diggins’ book Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History,” Shirley notes, Diggins “says that our four greatest presidents were George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan—because all of them freed or saved many people.”

Shirley continued: “In the end, they left their country a better place to live… I can’t think of a better criteria for the presidency than that.”

Shirley told AMAC Newsline that above all, he hopes The Search for Reagan will remind Americans not only of Reagan’s greatness—but also that, even in the darkest times and most troubling moments, greatness is in fact achievable.

“Men like Reagan,” Shirley concluded, “do not grow on trees. And when we do have great men or great women serving us, they should be celebrated.”

The Search for Reagan is now available in stores and can be purchased here.

Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.

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Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
1 month ago

Praise for your writing this article Aaron and praise for Craig Shirley for the book about Ronald Reagan. Civilization is under attack these days and the fundamentals for having civilization – religion, the source of moral ideas and law were part of what Ronald and Nancy Reagan were all about. I am looking forward to reading this book , the achievements of the Reagan years are good to remember. There were many admirable qualities that still set a good example – the courage, the respectful,uplifting sense of humor, the genuine way of speaking that had a way of setting things right and explaining developments as a President of the United States of America should do .

Max
Max
1 month ago

Every President had his ups and downs. President Reagan was a LEADER who was able to use his talents and the advice given to him to help the people and country to advance with dignity. Since he was NOT OF THE SWAMP, he did not always have the support of his party and of course, the OTHER PARTY did their best to derail his policies. President Reagan did overcome these adversities and did what was needed and right. Will this country see another person like President Reagan? Only time will tell and that time is getting shorter.

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