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Ronald Reagan figures in current political debate

September 13, 2004

Image of the front cover of Jules Tygiel's "Ronald Reagand and the Triumph of American Conservatism""Ronald Reagan ranks along with Franklin D. Roosevelt as one of the two most influential figures in 20th Century American politics," says Jules Tygiel, professor of history. "To understand the current battles between George W. Bush and John Kerry and the divide between the ‘red,' the ‘blue' and the ‘swing' states, it is necessary to understand the enduring legacy, both positive and negative, of Ronald Reagan."

Tygiel's newest book, "Ronald Reagan and the Triumph of American Conservatism," is
the first scholarly biography of the late 40th President of the United States written in the wake of the election of George W. Bush and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"We live in the age of Reagan. We live in the wake of his reforms" states Tygiel. "His presidency reshaped our political universe. Though he left office well over a decade ago his legacy still influences our daily lives and national debates." Tygiel believes that Reagan personifies the 20th century American experience, advancing from a modest Midwestern boyhood to movie stardom to union leader and political spokesperson before taking public office as governor of California and president of the United States.

"Reagan moved from the political left to the political right and came to symbolize the conservative resurgence that swept the nation." Tygiel hopes that his book sheds some understanding on the ideas and opinions that lie between the far right's idolatry of Reagan, most dramatically demonstrated during the late president's recent funeral, and the narrow criticism of the far left.

Tygiel's other books include the award-winning "Past-time: Baseball as History" and the acclaimed "Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy." It was the Robinson book that led to the Reagan book.

"I was approached by the publisher to do a short biography of Jackie Robinson," Tygiel explains. "But I asked if I could select someone else." He wanted to write about a political figure whose life covered a broad span of American history, so the resulting book would be attractive as a college text. Having taught both California history and US 20th century history, Reagan seemed the perfect choice for Tygiel. "I thoroughly enjoyed this project," adds Tygiel. "I found myself fascinated by the unfolding of Reagan's improbable life and his significance in shaping modern America."

"Ronald Reagan and the Triumph of American Conservatism," is one of the titles in the Library of American Biography series published by Pearson/Longman.

-- Denize Springer


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