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How did a presidential campaign with the slogan “Make America Great Again” come to prevail? To find out, we look to Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, where the phrase was first used. In this livestreamed presentation, author Rick Perlstein draws from his book Reaganland: America’s Right Turn to share the story of a reenergized conservative Republican base, and trace the tactics used to gain power during Reagan’s campaign full circle to Trump and the politics of today.
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 Ford’s defeat, and considered too old to make another run. But then fundamentalist preachers and former segregationists reinvented themselves as militant crusaders against gay rights and feminism, and business executives united against regulation, while a civil war broke out in the Democratic party and President Carter attempted to deal with the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, aviation accidents, and serial killers on the loose. Perlstein explains how this extraordinary confluence of events created exactly the platform for a Reagan comeback. Join us as he describes Reagan’s unexpectedly successful run, and how the conservative strategies from yesterday manage to endure decades later.
Rick Perlstein is the bestselling author of Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge. His essays and book reviews have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Village Voice, and Slate, among others. He is a contributing editor and board member of In These Times magazine.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.