Republican Revolutionary; How Reagan 'Won the Party'

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert M. Smalley, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When Ronald Reagan arrived in Kansas City for the 1976 Republican National Convention, his face was wreathed in smiles and his hopes were transformed into high expectations. When the convention was over, however, it was Gerald Ford who was nominated to succeed himself as the Republican president. Nevertheless, the 1976 convention was the launch pad for Gov. Reagan's campaign in 1980.

"Reagan's Revolution," by Craig Shirley, is a complex and detailed book, and its subject matter does not end with the radical changes brought about within the Republican Party and the two-party system within the United States. The book is a forerunner to the conservative achievements which led to Mr. Reagan's election and to the ultimate changes in the world at large that were brought about by Mr. Reagan's election to the presidency.

Fred Barnes, author of the foreword to "Reagan's Revolution," writes that with the conclusion of the 1976 convention, "at age 65, Reagan's political career seemed to be over." As we now know, of course, his career then had a new beginning.

The book offers an extensive cast of characters, identifying the men and women who would be at Mr. Reagan's side from then on. It was their transformation of Mr. Reagan's revolution from defeat into future victory that now gives the book its subtitle, "The Untold Story of the Campaign that Started it All."

The declining status of the Republican Party in those days of the mid-1970s is carefully examined. We see the political costs of actions and inactions by Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Gerald Ford and others. Their ultimate result was to open the future to Mr. Reagan and to shift the balance of political power from the East Coast establishment to a nationally based conservative revolution.

When the nomination was cast for Gerald Ford, Mr. Reagan was asked to say a few words and went to the podium. Mr. Barnes argues that in the time it took for Mr. Reagan to speak on that occasion, the Republican Party escaped the clutches of its modern establishment and fell into Mr. Reagan's lap. He lost the nomination, but won the party, and ultimately the presidency and affected the course of world history.

Mr. Barnes describes what he calls "one of the most emotional and amazing moments I have ever experienced." President Ford and his allies expected Mr. …