How Ronald Reagan turned America into a nation of children

A new book on the rise of modern conservatism argues that Reagan's rhetoric infantilized our political culture — with devastating consequences

Reagan
(Image credit: (Michael Evans/The White House/Getty Images))

If you only manage to read one big book of political history this year, make it Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.

The third in a series of phonebook-sized tomes tracing the ascendency of the conservative movement since the early 1960s, The Invisible Bridge devotes over 800 pages to three years (1973 to 1976), with lengthy (and highly disparaging) digressions into Ronald Reagan's biography thrown in for good measure. These were the years leading up to and including Reagan's (nearly successful) effort to unseat a president of his own party (Gerald Ford), and Perlstein makes a powerful, intellectually bracing case for treating them as critically important for understanding much that has followed in American politics and culture.

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