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Before we begin, let me just state for the record that I consider Rick Perlstein to be a friend, at least the unusual sort of friend we can have in this Internet Age. We've never met and we've spoken by telephone only once--when he was writing an essay for the Village Voice about how conservatives are unAmerican for not recognizing that George W. Bush is evil. But ever since he sent us his first book--the excellent, Before the Storm--we've corresponded somewhat regularly by e-mail and I'm one of a handful of conservatives he jousts with regularly enough that we get an undeserving mention in the Acknowledgments here. We agree on next to nothing and the manner of his disagreement has become quite frantic over the course of the Bush Epoch--plus, even as I type this he's welching on the steak dinner he lost to me in a bet--but we're friendly nonetheless. So you may wish to consider that as you read what follows.

If I understand correctly, Nixonland is the second volume in a projected trilogy on conservatism that will conclude with a history of the Reagan years. That aforementioned first volume won plaudits from those on the Right because, while Friend Perlstein is unabashedly a man of the far Left, a "progressive" as they like to style themselves, he was genuinely fair in his treatment of Barry Goldwater and took seriously the ideas of the conservative movement that spawned his presidential candidacy. The book was written with a kind of clinical detachment that permitted him to examine a political phenomenon and its underlying ideology without denouncing it at every opportunity. This installment is far more passionate and partisan, to the book's detriment and the reader's disappointment.

Mind you, Democrats and various denizens of the '60s/'70s Left take their share of incoming fire too and no one particularly cares if an author is overly fair to Richard Nixon, least of all conservatives. After all, to a considerable degree just three individuals are responsible for retarding the permanent realignment of America back to its default position on the Center-Right after the Great Depression/WWII years: Lee Harvey Oswald, Richard Nixon, and Mohammed Atta. However, the main shortcoming of the book lies in the sad reality that in making of Nixon a personal Moby Dick, Mr. Perlstein ends up doing damage to the historical/political analysis herein. Nixon becomes a satanic Zelig, in the frame for every awful thing that's happened in the past 50 years, rather than the pathetic little victim of social forces beyond his ken and control that he really was.

The basic problem lies in the way that the book is framed. Mr. Perlstein's contention is that the landslide election of LBJ in 1964 marked the acceptance by the American people of a liberal consensus but that the subsequent, supposedly sudden, splintering of society, the violence of the 60s and 70s, and even the Red v. Blue divide that we talk about today were brought about by Richard Nixon and the cunning way in which he manipulated "strange new angers, anxieties, and resentments." This essentially makes Richard Nixon responsible for the Klu Klux Klan bombing, beating, and murdering blacks during the Civil Rights Era--when he was a nearly forgotten lawyer in New York City--for the Weathermen attacking the US government, for Mayor Daley and NYC hardhats attacking hippies, and so on and so forth. Nevermind the absurd power it attributes to a Dick who was nowhere near that Tricky, even more problematic is that these are all cases of violence being perpetrated by the various factions of the New Deal coalition or the New Left: Dixiecrats; big city mayors; intellectuals; labor unions, etc.. Once we recognize that the particular pathologies of this period were played out within the Democratic Party, it would seem to become obvious that it was the Johnson presidency itself that blew up that party. And, fittingly, it did so because President Johnson misread the election returns of 1964 in the same way that our friend does.

The distance of decades, the unwillingness to think poorly of a murdered president, the haze of nostalgia, and a cottage industry of apologists for Camelot has tended to make us forget that John F. Kennedy thought it not unlikely that he could lose to Barry Goldwater in 1964. The young executive had already seriously screwed up his handling of Cuba, Moscow, and Vietnam and was subject to blame from white Southern Democrats for being too much opposed to Jim Crow and from the Civil Rights movement for doing too little about same. Indeed, JFK was only in Texas because he feared losing it the next year. We can never know whether he would in fact have been a one term failure but for Lee Harvey Oswald, but we do know that the gunman radically changed the political environment for the following Fall. LBJ just rode the martyr's coattails to a victory that should have told him nothing more, and a historian like Mr. Perlstein nothing more, than that Americans weren't about to let some psychotic decide which party should be in the White House. All Democrats had to do in 1964 was connect Barry Goldwater--whose intemperate rhetoric helped them immeasurably--to extremist views and the election was in the bag. Thus, while Mr. Goldwater's Convention Speech is one of the best remembered, and most notorious, in American history, no one recalls a word of LBJ's, because he said nothing, as he ran on nothing. Today we associate the Great Society with a series of quite specific and divisive policies that he used his "mandate" and majorities to enact, but when he was running it was all airy pabulum:
For a century we labored to settle and to subdue a continent. For half a century we called upon unbounded invention and untiring industry to create an order of plenty for all of our people.

The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.

Your imagination, your initiative and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.

The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.
Whatever all of that means, it can hardly be argued that LBJ was using the 1964 election to establish a consensus for war in Vietnam, desegregation of even private facilities, massive expenditures on a War on Poverty, and all the rest of the dog's breakfast of laws that the incoming Congress passed.

It can come as no surprise then that voters ended the Great Society's ambitions just two years later, punishing Democrats in the '66 midterm. And while the Democrat on Democrat violence that ensued was certainly appalling, it was perhaps the inevitable result of a party undertaking such wrenching social experimentation with so little popular will behind it. Of course, conspicuously absent from the scene during these years was one Richard M. Nixon. The "fracturing of America," even if we concede that it occurred at this time, took place not in Nixonland, but Johnsonville.

Adding to the confusion, that term, "Nixonland," is borrowed from a letter that Adlai Stevenson wrote to John Kenneth Galbraith in the mid-50s, when the eponymous man was a mere vice president. Mr. Perlstein broadens the definition of Nixonland in a way that is instructive, though perplexing:
[I]t is the America where two separate and irreconcilable sets of apocalyptic fears coexist in the minds of two separate and irreconcilable groups of Americans. The first group, enemies of Richard Nixon, are the spiritual heirs of Stevenson and Galbraith. They take it as an axiom that if Richard Nixon and the values associated with him triumph, America itself might end. The second group are the people who wrote those telegrams begging Dwight D. Eisenhower to keep their hero on the 1952 Republican ticket. They believe, as did Nixon, that if the enemies of Richard Nixon triumph--the Alger Hisses and Helen Gahagan Douglases, the Herblocks, and hippies, the George McGoverns and all the rest--America might end.
This practically beggars description. Not only does Nixon by himself supposedly represent everything that American intellectuals despise, but we are implicitly asked to believe that hippies and a spy for the Soviet Union did not want to radically change or end America as we know, though that was the stated aim of their respective ideologies. Bizarre.

Now, it may be the case that the Stevensons, Galbraiths, and Hisses located in Richard Nixon everything they hate about what Mr. Perlstein's friend, Thomas Frank, nowadays calls Kansas. Intelectualls have long been aware of and offended by the disdain in which they are held by most Americans. The irony of Richard Nixon though is that he was driven by a need for acceptance by the intellectual class, not a disregard for it. That is presumably why, when he did triumph, he governed like a liberal Democrat and converted from the anti-Communism of his youthful days to the despicable Realism of his Harvard-trained foreign policy mentor, Henry Kissinger. The book makes much of Nixon's founding of the Orthogonians at Whittier College, a club to compete with the more socially elevated Franklins:
Franklins were well-rounded, graceful, moved smoothly, talked slickly. Nixon's new club,the Orthogonians, was for the strivers, those not to the manner born, the commuter students like him. He persuaded this followers that reveling in one's nonpolish was a nobility of its own. ... Orthogonians wore shirtsleeves. "Beans, brains and brawn" was their motto. He told them orthogonian -- basically "at right angles" -- mean "upright," "straight shooter."
Mr. Perlstein suggests that we accept this as a metaphor for nixon's life and look at his whole career as a matter of leading the Orthogonians against the Franklins. He leaves unexplored what I would argue is the more revealing possibility, that Nixon is best understood as resenting his own Orthogonality and exclusion from the Franklins, such that his politics became over time a way of currying favor with his "betters," rather than leading the anti-intellectual mob. That is why his presidency is so nearly indistinguishable from that of the archetypal liberal Democrat, LBJ.

Unfortunately, when we begin picking at all these threads the whole Leftist obsession with Richard Nixon as a uniquely evil and quintessentially conservative figure comes unraveled. While Nixon is hardly a character who can inspire sympathy, Mr. Perlstein's obsessive pursuit ends up reminding us, or instructing the younger among us, of that long before there was a Bush Derangement Syndrome--whereby W is not only responsible for Hurricane Katrina but for the very fact that people live below sea level in a hurricane zone--there was this sort of lunatic hatred--such that even a somewhat silly confrontation between Yoko Ono and the cartoonist Al Capp can be blamed on Nixon.

Weighing in at 748 pages, some may think the investment of time and energy to great just to learn a lesson about how looney the Left can be. But Friend Perlstein brings along a staggering amount of research, a rich collection of anecdotes, an amusing and (on occasion) affecting righteous anger, and a tremendous zest as he rides roughshod through the period from '64 to '72. You may not agree with many, if any, of his conclusions about the era, and you'll not mistake him for the historian of his earlier book, but as a polemicist he's never less than entertaining. And if he writes from heart instead of the head here, what more ought we really expect from a liberal? Liberalism is, after all, about feeling instead of thinking. And, whatever else it may be, this book is deeply felt.




N.B.: Here is an earlier blog post on the book:
E Pluribus Nixon: A sweeping new social history portrays Richard Nixon as the president his fratricidal country deserved—and perhaps the best we could have hoped for: a review of NIXONLAND: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America By Rick Perlstein (Ross Douthat, Atlantic Monthly)
Seven years ago, Rick Perlstein, a young and decidedly left-wing historian, accomplished a daring feat: he imagined his way into the hearts and minds of the right-wing idealists who made Goldwaterite conservatism one of the most successful mass movements of the 1960s. The result was Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, a richly detailed narrative of the 1964 election, and a dense and dizzying account of a moment when America was teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown but didn't know it yet.

Now Perlstein has produced a sequel. If Before the Storm was a near-masterpiece, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, which covers the turbulent years from Goldwater's defeat to Nixon's 1972 landslide victory, is merely a great success. It labors under handicaps his first book didn't have: whereas Before the Storm dealt with a circumscribed and neglected moment (who remembers Dr. Fred Schwarz's Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, or the presidential boomlet for William Warren Scranton?), Nixonland tackles the most obsessed-over era in recent American history. Any book that rolls Woodstock and Watergate, the death of RFK and the Tet Offensive, Jane Fonda and George Wallace, and a cast of thousands more into a mere 800 pages or so is bound to sprawl and sag a bit, to rush too quickly through some topics and linger too long with others.

Even so, Nixonland reads marvelously. Perlstein has the rare gift of being able to weave social, political, and cultural history into a single seamless narrative, linking backroom political negotiations to suburban protests over sex education in schools to the premiere of Bonnie and Clyde. [...]

Nixonland is a historical narrative worth savoring—but one worth ar­guing with as well. Perlstein sets out to challenge what he terms "certain hegemonic narratives" of the '60s. But, perhaps inevitably, he tends to be tougher on right-wing shibboleths—the notion that all of the era's violence was left-wing; the idea that the media snatched away victory in Vietnam—than on liberal ones. Nixonland offers a vastly more nuanced account of how the New Deal coalition came apart than the predictable left-liberal story of noble Democrats undone by ruthless, race-baiting Republicans. (I'm looking at you, Paul Krugman.) But while Perlstein criticizes the liberal establishment for its self-satisfaction and naïveté—for believing that "if only Nixon's people could truly see reason … their prejudices would melt away, their true interests would be recognized"—he still leaves the impression that when it came to public policy, mid-century liberalism almost always did have reason on its side. [...]

[P]erlstein is unsparing in his critique of the political failures of mid-century liberalism; I only wish he had meditated more deeply on liberalism's policy failures as well, and at least grappled with the possibility that voters rejected liberal governance for pragmatic reasons as well as atavistic ones. But to do so might have required him to give Nixon's Republican Party—if not Nixon himself—more credit for restoring domestic tranquillity than I imagine he thinks the GOP deserves. Indeed, a minor theme of Perlstein's book is the extent to which domestic tranquillity has never been restored; Americans, he argues, inhabit "Nixonland" even now.

This argument is one of Perlstein's weakest—and it's undercut, time and again, by his own skill as a historian and a writer. The chaotic tapestry he summons up—"hard hats" slugging hippies on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street, radical priests hatching bomb plots in the steam tunnels under Washington, D.C., riots consuming city after city, and national leaders going down under assassins' bullets—is fascinating precisely because it feels so alien to our present political climate. Indeed, the age of Bush, supposedly unrivaled in its rancor, seems like a peaceable kingdom when contrasted with the madhouse in which Richard Nixon rose to power. We have a culture war; they had a war.

It's true that the political and cultural divides that opened in the Nixon era are with us even now. But Perlstein wants to make a larger claim than this; he wants to suggest that the violent spirit of that time has endured till now as well.


I'm only in the early stages of reading Friend Perlstein's book but am struck by a potentially fatal flaw in his thesis that's implied in the review above. With his expected honesty, Mr. Perlstein initially identifies Nixonland as the sort of Red America that the Adlai Stevenson eggheads found themselves stuck in ad unable to comprehend in the 50s. That this part of the metaphor endures--is indeed a seemingly innate part of the culture--is reflected not just in his own essays about contemporary politics but in books by his friends and fellow Brights, like Thomas Frank's unintentionally hilarious, What's the Matter with Kansas.

On the other hand, the sort of violent divisiveness that he associates with Nixonland rather conspicuously developed at the exact time that Richard Nixon was not a central part of the national political scene. Inner-city riots, assassinations, student demonstrations, radical Left terrorism--all of these social plagues arose during the Johnson/Great Society years, the pinnacle of the Left's ascendancy. Even the initial violent reactions were led by Democrats--like LBJ sending federal troops into Detroit or Mayor Daley breaking up protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention. If anything, as Mr. Douthat suggests above, the return of Richard Nixon --a liberal Republican--in 1968 might be seen as an attempt by American voters to restore the social calm and consensus of earlier eras. Richard Nixon, at least in his final incarnation, should probably be considered an effect of the social breakdown of the Liberal 60s, rather than a cause of anything much.

Of course, this perspective does tend to undermine the thesis that the consensus was never retrieved, but consider too that Nixon was followed by a Democrat who ran to the Right of where he and Gerald Ford had governed. The only other Democrat elected president since 1964 was likewise an Evangelical Southern governor. And, while Carter and Clinton only won very narrowly, several Republicans since have run up pretty big margins. The problem would seem to be a reluctance on the part of Mr. Perlstein and company to accept that the consensus has been restored but has shifted back to where it was pre-Depression, fairly far to the Right side of moderate. Thus, even when Democrats won back Congress in the 2006 midterm they've ended up governing little differently than Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay did.

It is instructive also to look at where the most divisive point in our politics is today: the racial/tribal divide between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This is an entirely predictable function of the identity politics that still characterizes much of the Left, although Mr. Obama tried desperately to run as a cipher, lest voters discover his pastor and his politics and, inevitably, reject him as just another Northern liberal too far out of the mainstream to elect president.

At any rate, the book's a rollicking good read and we'll post a full review ASAP.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B-)

  

Websites:

See also:

Rick Perlstein (2 books reviewed)
Politics
Presidents
Rick Perlstein Links:

    -ARCHIVES: Perlstein (Brothers Judd Blog)
    -AUTHOR SITE: RickPerlstein.org
    -FACEBOOK GROUP: Nixonland
    Nixonland: How The Right Stole Populism
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Before the Storm
    -EXCERPT: Preface to Nixonland
    -EXCERPT: from Nixonland: "Then No One Would Be a Democrat Anymore": In 1970, Richard Nixon, inspired by a spontaneous construction workers' riot, settled on the political strategy that would win him the 1972 election by a landslide and dominate American politics to this day (Rick Perlstein)
    -EXCERPT: from Nixonland: AN UNPOPULAR WAR, AN ECONOMY IN THE DUMPS, A PRESIDENT WITH LOW APPROVAL RATINGS, HIS OPPONENT REVITALIZING HIS BASE: HOW DID THE DEMOCRATS LOSE IN 1972, AND BY A HISTORIC MARGIN? (Rick Perlstein)
    -INTERVIEW: The Age of Nixon: Rick Perlstein on the left, the right, the '60s, and the illusion of consensus (Jesse Walker, July 2008, Reason)
    -PROFILE: Historian bridges left-right divide (J. PATRICK COOLICAN, 5/15/08, Politico)
    -PROFILE: Sympathy for the Devil: Progressive scribe Rick Perlstein made his reputation finding the good in conservatives. Then they really started screwing up the country. (Harold Henderson, January 24, 2008, Chicago Reader)
    -INTERVIEW: Nixonland, Then and Now (Jon Wiener, 05/18/2008, The Nation)
    -INTERVIEW: An NRO Q&A: Navigating Nixonland: Rich Perlstein's most recent book takes a look at conservative history in the 1960s. (National Review, 5/23/08)
    -BOOKNOTES: Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein (C-SPAN< June 3, 2001)
    -DEBATE: Rick Perlstein and David Frum (BloggingHeads.tv, 4/18/08)
    -ESSAY: All Aboard the McCain Express (Rick Perlstein, April 21, 2008, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: Getting Past the '60s? It's Not Going to Happen. (Rick Perlstein, February 3, 2008, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Myths of McGovern: Thirty-five years later, what the 1972 campaign can—and can't—teach liberals today: a review of Why the Democrats Are Blue: How Secular Liberals Hijacked the People's Party By Mark Stricherz and The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party By Bruce Miroff (Rick Perlstein, Democracy)
    -ESSAY: Not in his father's footsteps (Rick Perlstein, February 10, 2008, LA Times)
    -ESSAY: Smirk of the Union: A small and beaten man spoke to Congress and the nation last night, convinced in his own mind he's a hero (Rick Perlstein, 1/29/08, TomPaine.com)
    -ESSAY: Chinese Mirrors (Rick Perlstein, June 7, 2007, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: Whos Afraid of Peter Boyle? (Rick Perlstein, 2/08/07, In These Times)
    -ESSAY: The Best Wars of Their Lives (Rick Perlstein, October 15, 2007, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: Will the Progressive Majority Emerge? (Rick Perlstein, July 9, 2007, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: Why Democrats can stop the war: Pundits say if the party gets too tough with Bush, it will be blamed for "losing" Iraq. But the real political risk is going too easy on Bush, and losing the trust of war-weary voters. (Rick Perlstein, 1/24/07, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Heck-of -a-Job Myers? (Rick Perlstein, January 3, 2007, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: Fenced Out: A post–9/11 boom in immigration legislation hasn't stemmed the border flow, but it has created a flood of new approaches—most with built-in paradoxes. (Rick Perlstein, Jan/Feb 2007, University of Chicago Magazine)
    -ESSAY: Look Back in Anger: The Democrats won, but they shouldn't for a second let victory cause them to forget the Republicans' dirty tricks operation (Rick Perlstein, November 10, 2006, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: The Odd Couple: Nixon and Lieberman: Nixon and Lieberman both supported pro-war policies while claiming to be anti-war. (Rick Perlstein, 11/03/06, In These Times)
    -ESSAY: Unf***ing the Donkey: Advice for weary, wandering Democrats (Rick Perlstein. July 26th, 2005, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: A Socialist in the Age of Triangulation (Rick Perlstein, 7/06/05, In These Times)
    -ESSAY: Party Cannibals (Rick Perlstein, February 7, 2005, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: Inauguration 2005: The Eve of Destruction ...: Four more years to remake the world in his image. (Too bad for us, he already started.). (Rick Perlstein. January 11th, 2005, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Case of the Ohio Recount: In the whodunit over who won it, the true villain is slipping away. (Rick Perlstein, December 14th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Conviction Politics: One Democratic hero emerged from November 2. His fellow Democrats should study up on why. (Rick Perlstein, November 21, 2004, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Cast Away: It's the Wealth, Stupid: Right-wing class warfare swung the 2004 election (Rick Perlstein, November 2nd, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: It's Mourning in America: The Ohio debacle and the death of our civic life (Rick Perlstein, October 26th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Reagan legacy: He was a true believer who moved the country divisively to the right. But compared to the current president, Ronald Reagan looks like a moderate (Rick Perlstein, 6/07/04, Salon)
    -ESSAY: The Jesus Landing Pad: Bush White House checked with rapture Christians before latest Israel move (Rick Perlstein, May 11th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Tribal Warfare in America: A 30-year-old book by a progressive journalist finds that the passions of reformers can sometimes betray a contempt for the common sense of ordinary people. Sound familiar? (Rick Perlstein, November 16, 2004, Columbia Journalism Review)
    -ESSAY: Sucking Democracy Dry: The End of Democracy: Losing America's birthright, the George Bush way (Rick Perlstein, October 12th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Passionate Conservatism: Karl Rove's Republicans swerve right on the way to the middle (Rick Perlstein, August 31st, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Get Mad. Act Out. Re-Elect George Bush: Protesters risk playing into GOP hands. (Rick Perlstein, August 17th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The End of Republican Rule: Righteous populism holds the key to vanquishing Bush forever. (Rick Perlstein. July 27th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Church of Bush: What liberal infidels will never understand about the president (Rick Perlstein. July 13th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Divine Calm of George W. Bush: So Iraq's a mess and half the country hates you. Just keep praying. (Rick Perlstein, April 27th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Jobs of the Future Are a Thing of the Past: Outsourcing and the sad little movement to stop it. by Rick Perlstein, March 23rd, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Flight of the Bumblebee: Howard Dean May Be Dying, but He Sure Packed a Sting (Rick Perlstein, January 27th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Last Copter Out of Baghdad: Bush Flees Iraq Mess On The Campaign Express. (Rick Perlstein, January 6th, 2004, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Attention, Wal-Mart Voters: Lost Jobs and Military Funerals Haunt Bush in the Heartland (Rick Perlstein, December 2nd, 2003, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Day of the Spoiler: Inside Joe Lieberman's Kamikaze Campaign (Rick Perlstein, October 21st, 2003, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Patriot Act?: Wesley Clark says he knew the Iraq War was wrong. So why didn't he say something -- before it was too late? (Rick Perlstein, October 15, 2003, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Come Out Fighting: Boxing George Bush Into a Corner in 2004 (Rick Perlstein, September 16th, 2003, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Fringe on Top: Extremists Help the GOP Muscle In on the Golden State (Rick Perlstein, August 12th, 2003, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Orange County Anguish: Searching for Someone, Anyone, Who Loves Governor Gray Davis (Rick Perlstein, September 2nd, 2003, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Howard Dean's Youth Machine: Not since McGovern has a Democratic candidate drawn a youth following the size of Howard Dean's - and that's got some in the party worried. (Rick Perlstein, July 16, 2003, Mother Jones)
    -ESSAY: The TV Campaign (Rick Perlstein, November 30, 2002, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: As Reviewed on Amazon (Rick Perlstein, November 30, 2002, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: The 'Safety' Trap: Tuesday's loss gave Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt plenty to ponder: Democrats followed the party's center-seeking presidential hopefuls into an ideological no-man's land. (Rick Perlstein, November 11, 2002, Mother Jones)
    -ESSAY: A Surrender to Trust: Richard Nixon taught the nation a painful lesson about secrecy and the White House. How soon we forget. (Rick Perlstein, July/August 2002, Mother Jones)
    -ESSAY: The Historical Present: What has superseded the academic culture wars of the 1990s? It's not what you think. (Rick Perlstein, July 14, 2002, American Prospect)
    -ESSAY: The Two Faces of Ralph (Rick Perlstein, January 15th, 2002, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: The Media Muzzled: Vietnam and Afghanistan Show why Limiting Press Access to War is Unpatriotic (Rick Perlstein, December 11th, 2001, Village Voice)
    -ESSAY: Pundits Who Predict the Future Are Always Wrong (Rick Perlstein, April 23, 2001, The Nation)
    -ESSAY: What's the Matter With College? (Rick Perlstein, NY Times Magazine)
    -REVIEW: of PRESIDENT NIXON: Alone in the White House By Richard Reeves (Rick Perlstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of AMERICAN FASCISTS: The Christian Right and the War on America By Chris Hedges (Rick Perlstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of WHAT A PARTY!: My Life Among Democrats: Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators, and Other Wild Animals. By Terry McAuliffe with Steve Kettmann (Rick Perlstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FOR THE SURVIVAL OF DEMOCRACY: Franklin Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s By Alonzo L. Hamby (Rick Perlstein, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: Blumenthals First Draft of History: Princeton University Press has published a compilation of articles by Sidney Blumenthal called How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime (Rick Perlstein, In These Times)
    -REVIEW: The Flaw of Averages: How polls obscure America's many social patchworks: a review of The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public By Sarah Igo (Rick Perlstein, Columbia Journalism Review)
   
-REVIEW: of Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan By Edmund Morris (Rick Perlstein, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of The Trial of Henry Kissinger By Christopher Hitchens (Rick Perlstein, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Views From the South: The Effects of Globalization and the WTO on Third World Countries Food First Books and the International Forum on Globalization and Five Days That Shook The World By Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Rick Perlstein, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Jane Fonda's War: A Political Biography of an Anti-war Icon by Mary Hershberger (Rick Perlstein, London Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : The Prophet Motive : Daniel Bell's take on capitalism, 20 years later (Rick Perlstein, Nov. 19, 1996, Slate)
    -ESSAY : Just the Artifacts : A cultural history of cultural histories (Rick Perlstein, March 12, 1997, Slate)
    -ESSAY : Who Owns the 60s ? : The opening of a scholarly generation gap (Rick Perlstein, May/June 1996 , Lingua Franca)
    -ESSAY : LEISURE WORLD (Rick Perlstein, November 1997 , Lingua Franca)
    -ESSAY : Labor of Love : Can Labor and Academia Get Along (Rick Perlstein, October 23, 1996, Feed Mag)
    -ESSAY :  When Smart Kids Attack : We all thought that TV had played its gaudiest hand with Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire? But then Fox upped the ante,exploiting precocious youngsters for fun and profit. Rick Perlstein wades gamely into the muck. (05.19.00, Feed)
    -ESSAY : Go North, Young Man  (Rick Perlstein, May/June 2001 , Lingua Franca)
    -REVIEW: of What Liberal Media? by Eric Alterman (Rick Perlstein, CJR)
    -REVIEW : of Abuse of Power : The New Nixon White House Tapes edited by Stanley Kutler (Rick Perlstein, Slate)
    -REVIEW : of Mutual Contempt by Jeff Sheshol  (Rick Perlstein, Slate)
    -REVIEW : of THE LAST INNOCENT YEAR:  AMERICA IN 1964: The Beginning of the "Sixties" by Jon Margolis (Rick Perlstein, Dissent)
    -REVIEW : of Microserfs by Douglas Coupland (Rick Perlstein, The Nation)
    -REVIEW : of The Wilkomirski Affair: A Study in Biographical Truth, by Stefan Maechler (Rick Perlstein, NY Observer)
    -Writers on the Verge : Rick Perlstein (Voice Literary Supplement,  June 2000)
    -PROFILE : Perlstein vs. Goldwater : Wonk called political "must read" (Judith Steininger, GM Today)
    -WEDDING : Vows: Kathy Geier and Rick Perlstein  (EMILY PRAGER, May 6, 2001, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : Reading Around : Part of an Occasional Series (Ronald Radosh, FrontPageMagazine.com May 8, 2001)
    -ARCHIVES: Rick Perlstein (The Nation)
    -ARCHIVES: perlstein (Salon)
    -ARCHIVES: rick perlstein (Newsweek)
    -ARCHIVES: Rick Perlstein (In These Times)
    -ARCHIVES: Rick Perlstein (AlterNet)
    -ARCHIVES: perlstein (Village Voice)
    -ARCHIVES: perlstein (American Prospect)
    -ARCHIVES: perlstein (Mother Jones)
    -ARCHIVES: "perlstein, rick" (Find Articles)
    -Kicking Around Nixon...and more (Alex Beam, 5/06/08, Boston Globe)
    E Pluribus Nixon: A sweeping new social history portrays Richard Nixon as the president his fratricidal country deserved—and perhaps the best we could have hoped for: a review of NIXONLAND: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America By Rick Perlstein (Ross Douthat, Atlantic Monthly)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (George F. Will, NY Times Book Review)
In Perlstein's mental universe, Nixon is a bit like God — not, Lord knows, because of Nixon's perfect goodness and infinite mercy, but because Nixon is the explanation for everything. Or at least for the rise of the right and the decline of almost everything else. This is a subject Perlstein, a talented man of the left, has addressed before.

In 2001, he published the best book yet on the social ferments that produced Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential candidacy. Subtle and conscientious, "Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus" demonstrated Perlstein's omnivorous appetite for telling tidbits from the news media, like this one: When Goldwater was campaigning in the 1964 New Hampshire primary, The New York Times ran a photograph with the snide caption "Barry Goldwater, aspirant for the Republican presidential nomination, with the widow of Senator Styles Bridges in East Concord. She holds dog." Oh, the other person must be the conservative presidential candidate. [...]

Now comes the second installment of Perlstein's meditation on that era's and, he thinks, our current discontents. "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America" completes his inquest into the death of the "cult of 'American consensus'" and the birth of "American cacophony." Perlstein's chronicle, which begins with the Watts riot of August 1965, is itself riotous: even at its calmest, his pell-mell narrative calls to mind a Pieter Bruegel painting of tumultuous peasants; at its most fervid, it resembles one of Hieronymus Bosch's nightmares.

Do we need another waist-deep wallow in the 1960s, ensconcing us cheek by jowl with Frank Rizzo and Eldridge Cleaver, Sam Yorty and Mark Rudd, Lester Maddox and Herbert Marcuse and other long-forgotten bit players in a period drama? Do we need to be reminded of that era's gaseous juvenophilia, like Time magazine's celebration of Americans 25 or younger as 1967's "Man of the Year": "This is not just a new generation, but a new kind of generation. ... In the omphalocentric process of self-construction and discovery," today's youth "stalks love like a wary hunter, but has no time or target — not even the mellowing Communists — for hate."

Well, this retrospective wallow does increase the public stock of harmless pleasure, as when Perlstein revisits the 1972 Democratic convention that nominated George McGovern and heard 80 nominations for vice president, including Mao Zedong and Archie Bunker. But Perlstein's high-energy — sometimes too energetic — romp of a book also serves, inadvertently, a serious need: it corrects the cultural hypochondria to which many Americans, including Perlstein, are prone.

Because the baby boomers' self-absorption is so ample, there already has been no shortage of brooding about those years. We do, however, benefit from the brooding by Perlstein, who is not a boomer, for two reasons. First, he has a novelist's, or perhaps an anthropologist's, eye for illuminating details, as in his jaw-dropping reconstruction of the Newark riots of July 1967. Second, his thorough excavation of the cultural detritus of that decade refutes his thesis, which is that now, as then, Americans are at daggers drawn. [...]

Perlstein repeatedly explains Nixon's or other people's behavior as arising from an Orthogonian resentment of Franklins, including establishment figures as different as Alger Hiss and Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon "co-opted the liberals' populism, channeling it into a white middle-class rage at the sophisticates, the well-born, the 'best circles.'" By stressing the importance of Nixon's character in shaping events, and the centrality of resentments in shaping Nixon's character, Perlstein treads a dead-end path blazed by Hofstadter, who seemed not to understand that condescension is not an argument. Postulating a link between "status anxiety" and a "paranoid style" in American politics — especially conservative politics — Hofstadter dismissed the conservative movement's positions as mere attitudes that did not merit refutation. Perlstein, too, gives these ideas short shrift.

As the pollster Samuel Lubell had already noted before the 1952 election, "the inner dynamics of the Roosevelt coalition have shifted from those of getting to those of keeping." Perlstein keenly sees that some liberals "developed a distaste" for the social elements they had championed, now that those elements were "less reliably downtrodden" and less content to be passively led by liberal elites.

The masses bought television sets and enjoyed what they watched. But Newton Minow, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (and formerly Adlai Stevenson's administrative assistant) declared television a "vast wasteland," thereby implicitly scolding viewers who enjoyed it. When New York was becoming a lawless dystopia, with crime, drugs and homelessness spoiling public spaces, August Heckscher, the patrician commissioner of parks under Mayor John Lindsay, sniffily declared that people clamoring for law and order were "scared by the abundance of life."

A Newsweek cover story on Louise Day Hicks, who led opposition to forced busing of school children in Boston, described her supporters as "a comic-strip gallery of tipplers and brawlers and their tinseled overdressed dolls ... the men queued up to give Louise their best, unscrewing cigar butts from their chins to buss her noisily on the cheek, or pumping her arm as if it were a jack handle under a truck."

Perlstein deftly deploys such judgments to illustrate what the resentful resented. Unfortunately, he seems to catch the '60s disease of rhetorical excess.

    -REVIEW: of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein: Author Blames a Divided U.S. on Nixon and His Era (Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (The Economist)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (BuzzFlash)
    'Nixonland,' Chronicling a Political Sea Change (CHRISTOPHER WILLCOX, May 29, 2008, NY Sun)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (Terry Hartle, CS Monitor)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (Harry Levins, St. Louis POST-DISPATCH)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (David Weigel, American Spectator)
    -REVIEW : Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein  (William Kristol, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : May 17, 2001 Russell Baker: Mr. Right, NY Review of Books
       Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein
       Suburban Warriors by Lisa McGirr
       Right-Wing Populism in America:Too Close for Comfort by Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm (Sam Tanenhaus, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm (William Rusher, National Review)
    -REVIEW : Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein  (Alvin S. Felzenberg, Weekly Standard)
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, by Rick Perlstein : Goldwater the Refusenik: A Different Kind of Republican (Christopher Caldwell, NY Observer)
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm (Steve Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
    -REVIEW : Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein  (Richard S. Dunham, Business Week)
    -REVIEW : Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein (Mark Greif, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm ( BILL BOYARSKY, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm (John Aloysius Farrell, Boston Globe)
    -REVIEW : of Before the Storm (Todd Gitlin, Boston Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Before the Storm (David Gordon, Mises Review)
    -REVIEW: of Before the Storm (Mark Greif, Village Voice)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (Thomas J. Sugrue, The Nation)
    -REVIEW: of Nixonland (Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph)
    -ESSAY: The Durability of Nixon (DAVID SHRIBMAN, 8/01/08, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
   
-REVIEW: of Nixonland: Speaking for the silent majority (George Osborne, The Spectator)

Book-related and General Links:

    -REVIEW: of David Greenberg. Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image (Raj Jethwa, H-USA)
    -REVIEW: of Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man By Garry Wills (John Leonard, NY Times)
    The Long Detour: A review of Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New Majority, by Robert Mason (William Rusher, Summer 2005, Claremont Review of Books)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Right in the Rearview Mirror: It took liberals 30 years to take conservatism seriously. Now we're obsessed with it (E.J. Dionne, August 18, 2008, American Prospect)

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