How Republican Ronald Reagan Won Over Democrat Frank Sinatra’s Support

Frank Sinatra

Actor and singer Frank Sinatra, as well as his famous “Rat Pack” of celebrity friends, defined an entire generation of cinema, music, and fashion. Much like many celebrities today, Sinatra also dipped his hands into the muddied waters of politics. Though never running for office himself, he lent his cool reputation and nationwide popularity to political figures, typically Democrats, with the most famous example being his personal friend, President John F. Kennedy.

However, to the surprise of many, Sinatra would sing a different partisan tune many years after the “Camelot” era of Washington D.C. came and left with the young president’s assassination, when one day Old Blue Eyes appeared at a public event in 1979 with then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, who was launching his second bid for the White House.

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From Kennedy Democrat to Reagan Republican

Sinatra’s political journey can be understood once you grasp his upbringing and personal beliefs. Sinatra grew up in a working-class Italian-American family, where he developed his blue collar, conservative beliefs from a very young age. These values emphasized hard work, personal responsibility, and traditional family values, all things the Democratic Party of yesterday at least supported at a surface level, unlike the progressives of our modern time.

Sinatra’s admiration for Ronald Reagan came from both personal and ideological reasons. The two of them developed a close friendship over the many years, especially since Reagan was a former Hollywood actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild before he stepped into politics.

Because of their shared backgrounds and circle of friends, Sinatra grew to like and enjoy Reagan’s classic charisma, leadership skills, and ability to connect with everyone from world leaders to regular, working people.


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Reagan’s conservative policies did not stray too far from Sinatra’s personal stances on the issues of the day. Reagan was a staunch advocate for limited government, contrary to the big welfare state Democrats that sought to build an even bigger New Deal era of entitlements as seen under Democrat presidents Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Jimmy Carter.

Sinatra also viewed Reagan as a champion of the free-market capitalism that built America, and defended more bravely than most Rockefeller-type Republicans of the time.

What solidly secured his endorsement of Reagan was his stance on national defense as well as his anti-communist positions, positions that Kennedy had but ones that some major Democrats began to reject, with some even sympathizing with communism.

Sinatra, like many Americans, was deeply concerned about the threat of communist expansion. Reagan’s unwavering commitment to a strong and reliable national defense and efforts to confront the Soviet Union comforted Sinatra’s belief in protecting democracy and the American people at all costs.

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Pride and Optimism for a Nation

It can’t be understated how Sinatra’s support of Reagan went beyond just shared political ideology. The friendship they developed and mutual respect they had for each other played a significant role in Reagan convincing Sinatra to use his popularity to lend it to him during one of the most critical elections in American history.

Sinatra personally believed that Reagan was the exact leader for that exact time, and could communicate effectively his beliefs and plans to the American people in a way he felt Kennedy had once done. He saw Reagan as a transformative leader who could reinstall patriotism and optimism to a nation who underwent so much the prior decades.

While Sinatra did stand by Reagan during his campaigns and presidency, its worth noting that he didn’t let that get in the way of being friendly with other politicians, such as President Bill Clinton.

Sinatra’s decisions to support certain candidates over others is a reminder to us today that sometimes following your principles means leaving partisanship behind, and instead supporting the cause and person best compatible with your beliefs.

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