The Making of the Great Communicator: Ronald Reagan's Transformation from Actor to Governorby Kenneth Holden
One week after Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California, the San Francisco Chronicle gibed: "It was simply a flagrant example of miscasting." Reagan was tanking, and his businessmen backers panicked. Their bold experiment was about to fail. Then a think-tank friend suggested the expertise of two UCLA social pyschologists. Kenneth Holden… See more details below
One week after Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for governor of California, the San Francisco Chronicle gibed: "It was simply a flagrant example of miscasting." Reagan was tanking, and his businessmen backers panicked. Their bold experiment was about to fail. Then a think-tank friend suggested the expertise of two UCLA social pyschologists. Kenneth Holden and Stanley Plog agreed to take the job only if they could have three full days alone with Reagan. The candidate and his backers agreed, and the three men disappeared into a Malibu beach house. Those three days remade the bumbling neophyte into an articulate, confident politician whose devastating sound bites shredded the opposition. Holden or Plog remained by Reagan's side for the rest of the campaign, feeding him information about California's problems, teaching him to handle the press, writing his position papers, and helping develop the programs he offered, all while battling factions of the campaign team who seemed determine to sabotage their own man. Not everyone who voted for Reagan supported his positions, but voters preferred his honesty and forthrightness to the waffling of other politicians. Reagan won by a landslide. Holden and Plog had shaped an actor into a governor, but they were also turning a governor into a president. Here is the untold story of how they did it.
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She took us into the den, a cozy room, with its bookcases and cowboy motif. "He's been a little down in the weather. Nothing serious, a slight infection."Spanned the walls big bookcases held up serious tomes about Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Paine; volumes about Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt; whole stretches of philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Locke. It was a thinking man's library. "Does he read all these books?" "Oh, yes, he's up late at night, reading, reading, reading."Nancy stepped out of the room for a second. Roberts was muttering something that sounded like a complaint; Nofziger was chuckling to himself, probably enjoying one of his bad puns or even worse jokes; and we were sitting there like West Point cadets: backs straight, stiff smiles, hands folded correctly in our laps, wondering why we put ourselves through such hoops.Then everything stopped. We turned, and there he was, standing in the doorway in a casual sports jacket, perfectly pressed slacks, and that dazzlingly shy smile: Ronald Reagan. He lit up the room, and we knew exactly why we were there.
Meet the Author
Kenneth Holden earned his PhD in clinical psychology from Ohio State University. At UCLA, he met Stanley Plog, and they founded Behavior Science Corporation (BASICO), a market research and consulting firm that focused on businesses, government, and election polling. After they sold BASICO, Holden joined California State University at Northridge as an assistant professor, later becoming a director with the Hawaii Mental Health Division. He lives in Chico, California, where he remains active in various volunteer organizations.
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I enjoyed reading about Mr. Reagan's early political career in California. It was also fun learning about his sense of humor and his transition from actor to statesman from a man who came to know and respect him on a personal level.