Throughout much of his career as an actor in Hollywood, Ronald Reagan identified as a passionate New Deal Democrat, yet by the time he turned to a career in politics in the 1960s he was a conservative Republican. In Becoming Ronald Reagan: The Rise of a Conservative Icon
(Potomac Books, 2019), Robert Mann
charts the course of his transition and explores the factors behind it. Growing up in Illinois, Reagan adopted the politics of his father Jack, an Irish Democrat who administered welfare programs during the Great Depression. As an actor Reagan became known among his peers for his passion for politics, and he often campaigned for Democrats in national elections. As Mann explains, while Reagan’s time as president of the Screen Actors Guild was an important stage in his shift rightward, the key was his work in the 1950s as a spokesperson for General Electric. During his time with the famously conservative company, Reagan embraced their views and gradually crafted his presentation of them in speeches he gave throughout the country. It was a refined version of these speeches which he gave in a nationally televised address during the 1964 presidential campaign which launched his career in elected politics, one that culminated in his election to the highest office in the land less than two decades later.