In a new book called The Working Class Republican, Henry Olson makes the case that Ronald Reagan was not as ideologically conservative as commonly believed, and that he was more of a blue collar conservative not as the doctrinaire conservative as he is often remembered as.
In Olsen’s telling, Reagan occupied a position on the center-right, with contemporaries such as Goldwater and supply-side economy acolytes like David Stockman (Reagan’s one-time budget director) to his right and the Democratic Party to his left. “In short, Reagan was against returning to the America before the New Deal. He was for interpreting Roosevelt’s legacy in a way that maximized freedom and minimized bureaucratic control and the direction of Americans’ lives,” Olsen writes.
Olsen applies to American politics what he calls the “truckers and cashiers” test. Truck driving is the biggest employer of white, working-class men, and being a cashier or waitress is the most common blue-collar job for white, working-class women. For Reagan, “virtually every speech had this person in mind, and virtually every speech had something that person could uniquely relate to.”