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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, in Whistling Dixie, Jonathan Bartho delves into how Reagan’s symbiotic relationship with the South’s values, patriotic fervour and traditionalism unwittingly laid the foundations for the rise of Donald Trump.

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Whistling Dixie: Ronald Reagan, The White South, And The Transformation Of The Republican Party

Adapted from his doctoral research, Jonathan Bartho’s first book, Whistling Dixie, gives readers a better understanding of the relationship Ronald Reagan forged with the conservative South both in his political campaigns and during his presidency (1981 – 1989). 

Whistling Dixie By Jonathan Bartho on The Table Read Magazine
Whistling Dixie By Jonathan Bartho

Directly linking Reagan’s political legacy in the southern states of America to the power Donald Trump now holds over the Republican Party, his assertions are informative, persuasive, and most importantly, reader friendly.

The support of white southern conservatives was crucial to Reagan’s political success, ultimately propelling him to the White House in 1980. By supporting Reagan’s presidential campaigns, southern conservatives were able to influence the direction of the Republican Party and begin restoring their region to a position of power in Washington.

In Whistling Dixie, Bartho deftly provides a fresh perspective on Reagan’s political career and the Republican Party of the Reagan era while detailing the often-rancorous philosophical differences between Reaganism and southern conservatism, a divide that laid the foundations for the GOP’s southernization and ultimately led to the rise of Donald Trump.

With the presidential elections just six months away, Whistling Dixie speaks profoundly to current events in US politics and will appeal to anyone with an interest in the subject. Its insights will also be appreciated by those looking to grasp how America has become the deeply polarised and fractured country it is today.

Jonathan Bartho

Based on extensive research, my book provides a balanced yet timely examination of the fascinating and crucial role the South played in the political career of President Ronald Reagan – particularly in his primary challenge of 1976 and his landslide election victory in 1980 – whilst also highlighting the clashes between the cultural conservatism of the South and the radical economic agenda of the Reagan administration. Reagan’s political relationship with the South had dramatic consequences not only for Reagan himself but also for the region, the Republican Party and the course of American politics.

By tracing this relationship, the reader can better understand how the Republican Party changed into the traditionalist, populist and confrontational party it is now. The roots of today’s Trumpism were unknowingly planted in the Republican Party by Ronald Reagan in the 1970s and 1980s, as he turned the region into a Republican stronghold. The forces he ushered into the Republican Party transformed the party’s base, created fertile ground for the rise of Donald Trump, and ultimately changed the party in ways that Reagan himself would barely recognise.

-Jonathan Bartho

Jonathan Bartho is an independent researcher, writer and scholar who specialises in US history and politics. He received his PhD from University College London in 2021 and this is his first book. He has previously published in the Journal of Policy History and recently wrote for Time Magazine as part of their Made By History platform.

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