Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-1972
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Told with urgency and sharp political insight, Nixonland recaptures America's turbulent 1960s and early 1970s and reveals how Richard Nixon rose from the political grave to seize and hold the presidency.
Perlstein's epic account begins in the blood and fire of the 1965 Watts riots, nine months after Lyndon
Johnson's historic landslide victory over Barry Goldwater appeared to herald a permanent liberal consensus
in the United States. Yet the next year, scores of liberals were tossed out of Congress, America was more divided than ever, and a disgraced politician was on his way to a shocking comeback: Richard Nixon.
Between 1965 and 1972, America experienced no less than a second civil war. Out of its ashes, the political world we know now was born. It was the era not only of Nixon, Johnson, Spiro Agnew, Hubert H. Humphrey, George McGovern, Richard J. Daley, and George Wallace but Abbie Hoffman, Ronald Reagan, Angela Davis, Ted Kennedy, Charles Manson, John Lindsay, and Jane Fonda. There are tantalizing glimpses of Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Jesse Jackson, John Kerry, and even of two ambitious young men named Karl Rove and William Clinton -- and a not so ambitious young man named George W. Bush.
Cataclysms tell the story of Nixonland:
- Angry blacks burning down their neighborhoods in cities across the land as white suburbanites defend home and hearth with shotguns
- The student insurgency over the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention
- The fissuring of the Democratic Party into warring factions manipulated by the "dirty tricks" of Nixon and his Committee to Re-Elect the President
- Richard Nixon pledging a new dawn of national unity, governing more divisively than any president before him, then directing a criminal conspiracy, the Watergate cover-up, from the Oval Office
Then, in November 1972, Nixon, harvesting the bitterness and resentment born of America's turmoil, was reelected in a landslide even bigger than Johnson's 1964 victory, not only setting the stage for his dramatic 1974 resignation but defining the terms of the ideological divide that characterizes America today.
Filled with prodigious research and driven by a powerful narrative, Rick Perlstein's magisterial account of how America divided confirms his place as one of our country's most celebrated historians.
degradation of our country.” Thus was limned an evolving identity: one of the defense Establishment’s best and brightest had by turns become its most dedicated critic. Dan Ellsberg had been an obvious choice for Robert McNamara as lead author when he commissioned the Pentagon Papers in June of 1967. Ellsberg’s combination of book smarts, policy experience, and time spent on the ground in the jungle was unique: he had volunteered for Vietnam in 1965, serving two years with General Edward
twenty-three-year-old host, wearing sandals and a psychedelic tie. Jesse Jackson suggested a compromise. White reformers called him a sellout. McGovern suggested a compromise. The cochair of the reformers responded, “If he needs Mayor Daley’s support more than he needs us, we don’t need him.” There were to be no compromises. This was the New Politics. Monday, the convention’s opening day, the two sides scurried from hotel to hotel, lobbying delegations, each stressing the justice of its cause,
McGovern explained why he had just chosen to become a “puppet of the bosses,” “warmonger,” and “lying pig.” He came down from his suite, looked them in the eye, and said, “I’m not shifting my position on any of the fundamental stands I’ve taken in this campaign.” He reminded them that he was against imprisoning marijuana smokers but not for its legalization, and that he believed in “amnesty for all young men who stood up against the war.” His directness quieted their rebellion. Then it was back
secretary John Gardner issued firmer guidelines; these demanded statistical proof of “significant progress.” And that led to the first shot on Fort Sumter. There were twenty-two senators from states of the Old Confederacy. Eighteen of them signed a letter to the president calling the revised guidelines an “unfair and unrealistic abuse of bureaucratic power.” George Wallace’s first political act after his wife’s nomination was to read a joint statement standing beside the Alabama congressional
the epitome of the antimachine politician—the matinee idol always on the front page of the Times walking the streets of Harlem, working over a pair of bongos, saving New York from social chaos by the pure force of his charisma. All were independently wealthy (“A man needs money to address the people over and around party structure,” Garry Wills sardonically observed). All shared a social network (Percy’s future son-in-law was a Rockefeller; Romney’s presidential advisers were borrowed from