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.
“dementia praecox of the most pointless sort.” Others recollected a generational primal scene. If “you want to see a real killer,” Jimmy Breslin wrote in disgust, “then you should have been around to see Lee Harvey Oswald.” Tom Wolfe compared its “pornoviolence” to the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination. Arthur Penn led his own defense by, more or less, agreeing. He boasted of the black man who emerged from a preview screening and said, “That’s the way to go, baby. Those cats were all right.”
president’s betrayer. And when he finished, the president thanked him warmly. But the president didn’t know that he also was being betrayed: Nixon already had it on secret authority from a source inside the Paris peace negotiations that LBJ himself planned to initiate a bombing halt sometime in October—intrigue upon intrigue upon intrigue. Humphrey’s speech was not bold; there were all kinds of conditions. But it was his first sign of defiance to the president. He even directly contradicted the
actually win in Vietnam—not just merely not lose. April 25 he went over the battle plans, cruised on the presidential yacht, watched Patton again. The young Harvards at the NSC tasked with pulling the invasion together started talking about resignation. The secretary of state, finally in on the operation, said he wouldn’t lie if asked about it, and asked the president if he had factored in the inevitable campus uprisings. “If I decide to do it,” the commander in chief responded, “it will be
for Henry Wallace’s 1948 third-party, left-wing presidential bid, fought the bill Richard Nixon cosponsored with McGovern’s home-state senator Karl Mundt to require Communists to register with the federal government, then fell in love with Adlai Stevenson and nearly single-handedly built the South Dakota Democratic Party. When it came time to run for office himself, to win the loyalties of the conservative farmers and farm wives of South Dakota, he mastered a difficult straddle. “I can present
reelection. Sixteen minutes later, Colson relayed the early reports: Nixon was at 77 percent in Georgia (“overwhelming in the South,” Colson gloated); and Kevin Philips, doing analysis for NBC, was predicting that Nixon would win 60 percent of the popular vote. “What are you thinking if we don’t win the House or the Senate?” Nixon grumbled back. “That’s how they’ll piss on the whole thing.” An hour and a half later, Colson broke the astonishing news that Nixon would probably take the city of