Family Research Council

Reagan's Victory: How He Built His Winning Coalition

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter had read, marked, and inwardly digested the doctrines of the Club of Rome. He agreed with them that Americans must accept a new Era of Limits.

He sought to persuade Americans that a changing world meant a diminished role for American power and American enterprise. When Americans recoiled, President Carter spoke of "growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our Nation." He pointed to "The erosion of our confidence in the future." His speech was widely derided as a malaise speech. He never used the word, but the idea shaped all he did.

Ronald Reagan rejected the idea that the future for Americans would be colder, darker, poorer. It was not the American people who suffered from malaise, he averred, but their leaders. Reagan promised a banner of bold device. He esteemed American enterprise, defended American values, and projected America's strength on the world scene.

In doing so, Ronald Reagan united an often fractious coalition of economic, defense, and social conservatives. He never used the term Big Tent. But if Reagan's winning coalition often resembled an unruly circus, he was undoubtedly the Ringmaster. His skill in working this coalition had not been seen since Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln led their new majorities with power, purpose, and principle.

Barack Obama has called Ronald Reagan a "transformational president," even as he has tried to fundamentally change the America Ronald Reagan celebrated, served, and loved.

FRC's Senior Fellow, Robert Morrison, was there from the beginning. Morrison, a Reagan Delegate and grassroots campaign volunteer in Washington State, went on to serve in the Reagan administration, in the Education Department. So keen for needed reform were the president's appointees to that unnecessary agency that reporters began to call it Fort Reagan. It was not a compliment.

In this short, readable book, Bob Morrison shows how Ronald Reagan built his winning coalition. For those too young to remember, and who have yet to hear the story, Bob provides a unique insight into this first unapologetically pro-life administration in U.S. history. Historian, political activist, right-to-life advocate, Bob Morrison reminds us that Ronald Reagan was a true lifesaver.

Reagan's Mexico City Doctrine was more than a one-day policy hit. Yes, it meant no U.S. funds for Planned Parenthood overseas. Yes, it meant the United States would reject any UN activity that contributed to such nightmaresas forced abortion and female infanticide.

Reagan's Mexico City Doctrine was the answer to the doom-and-gloom pessimism of the Club of Rome. All economic growth is based on human genius, human productivity, human capital, said Reagan. He taught the striving new nations of the world they should not be afraid of their own people.

Paul Kengor, Grove City College, author of "God and Ronald Reagan."

Bob Morrison is an astute student of Ronald Reagan, rooted not only in his experiences working for President Reagan in the Department of Education but in his lifelong study of the 40th president. In this engaging, insightful, concise, and nicely written book, Morrison highlights what we today need to remember most about Reagan, from the president's love of Lincoln and Washington and America, to his crucial ability to unite Republicans and conservatives around his economic, social, and defense and foreign policy positions. He united them not by pandering to their votes but by drawing them with his winning confidence and philosophy. What Reagan did in the 1980s must not be lost to Republicans in 2012.

Most significant about this book is Bob Morrison's vital understanding of the role of faith and respect for life in the heart and mind and soul of Ronald Reagan. For Reagan, those two threads were interwoven throughout the tapestry of his life and presidency, and they manifested themselves in his taking on two particularly evil institutions: abortion in America and Soviet communism. Bob Morrison is the rare Reagan writer who fully grasps this crucial, unyielding component of the Reagan picture, and he refuses it to airbrush it from Reagan reality. For that and much more, we should be grateful to Bob Morrison for this book.