The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism (Hardcover)
In this sure to be controversial book in the vein of The Forgotten Man, a political analyst argues that conservative icon Ronald Reagan was not an enemy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, but his true heir and the popular program’s ultimate savior.
Conventional political wisdom views the two most consequential presidents of the twentieth-century—FDR and Ronald Reagan—as ideological opposites. FDR is hailed as the champion of big-government progressivism manifested in the New Deal. Reagan is seen as the crusader for conservatism dedicated to small government and free markets. But Henry Olsen argues that this assumption is wrong.
In The Working Class Republican, Olsen contends that the historical record clearly shows that Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal itself were more conservative than either Democrats or Republicans believe, and that Ronald Reagan was more progressive than most contemporary Republicans understand. Olsen cuts through political mythology to set the record straight, revealing how Reagan—a longtime Democrat until FDR’s successors lost his vision in the 1960s—saw himself as FDR’s natural heir, carrying forward the basic promises of the New Deal: that every American deserves comfort, dignity, and respect provided they work to the best of their ability.
Olsen corrects faulty assumptions driving today’s politics. Conservative Republican political victories over the last thirty years have not been a rejection of the New Deal’s promises, he demonstrates, but rather a representation of the electorate’s desire for their success—which Americans see as fulfilling the vision of the nation’s founding. For the good of all citizens and the GOP, he implores Republicans to once again become a party of "FDR Conservatives"—to rediscover and support the basic elements of FDR (and Reagan’s) vision.
About the Author
Henry Olsen is an incisive political analyst and a senior fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a Washington, DC, think tank. He is a regular contributor to such leading publications as The National Review, The Weekly Standard, National Affairs, Commentary, The National Interest, The American Interest, and The Claremont Review of Books. He has also published op-eds and book reviews in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and The Washington Examiner.
“The Working Class Republican is a fascinating, highly readable analysis of Ronald Reagan’s particular brand of conservatism. In Henry’s excellent book, we learn that Reagan was hardly the ideologue many of his biggest detractors (and fans) presume, but felt that energetic government sometimes could and should be deployed on behalf of America’s working class. By shining some much needed light on modern conservatism’s most important figure, Henry Olsen has also showed the Republican Party a way forward.”
— J.D. Vance, New York Times bestselling author of Hillbilly Elegy
“An urgent warning for conservatives: If you admire Reagan - listen to him. What you learn will surprise you - and may save you.”
— David Frum, Senior editor, The Atlantic
“Henry Olsen’s original and remarkable book argues that the Republican Party can only win national electoral majorities if it goes beyond appeals to ideological conservatism and gains the support of working class voters in the nation’s heartland. These voters, once known as Reagan Democrats, do not look at politics through the lens of political theory, but in terms of “helping people like us.” Abandoned by Democrats and largely forgotten, at least until this year, by Republicans, this voting bloc is the lynchpin of our electoral system. And it was at the core of how Ronald Reagan always viewed the American voter. ”
— James W. Ceaser, Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution
Though Ronald Reagan is one of our most beloved presidents, he’s also one of our most misunderstood. In The Working Class Republican, Henry Olsen brings to light the real Reagan. Far from a rigid ideologue or an “amiable dunce,” he was a New Dealer at heart who wanted to make the economy work for all Americans, whether rich or poor.
— Reihan Salam , Executive Editor of National Review
“With this nuanced portrait of Ronald Reagan’s political evolution and maturation, Henry Olsen challenges many of his fellow conservatives to rethink, as Reagan did, the art of the possible in the America that the New Deal made.”
— George F. Will, Columnist, Washington Post
“Henry Olsen, one of the sharpest and most indispensable political analysts alive today, saw Trump coming when almost everyone missed it. Now he sees in Reagan what others missed. Agree or not The Working Class Republican promises to ignite a whole new fight over Trump, Reagan and the meaning conservatism. ”
— Jonah Goldberg, Senior Editor, National Review