Synopses & Reviews
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:
- A Angry blacks burning down their neighborhoods in cities across the land as white suburbanites defend home and hearth with shotguns
- A 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
- A The fissuring of the Democratic Party into warring factions manipulated by the dirty tricks of Nixon and his Committee to Re-Elect the President
- A 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.
"Perlstein, winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, provides a compelling account of Richard Nixon as a masterful harvester of negative energy, turning the turmoil of the 1960s into a ladder to political notoriety. Perlstein's key narrative begins at about the time of the Watts riots, in the shadow of Lyndon Johnson's overwhelming 1964 victory at the polls against Goldwater, which left America's conservative movement broken. Through shrewdly selected anecdotes, Perlstein demonstrates the many ways Nixon used riots, anti Vietnam War protests, the drug culture and other displays of unrest as an easy relief against which to frame his pitch for his narrow win of 1968 and landslide victory of 1972. Nixon spoke of solid, old-fashioned American values, law and order and respect for the traditional hierarchy. In this way, says Perlstein, Nixon created a new dividing line in the rhetoric of American political life that remains with us today. At the same time, Perlstein illuminates the many demons that haunted Nixon, especially how he came to view his political adversaries as 'enemies' of both himself and the nation and brought about his own downfall. 16 pages of b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is a terrific read. What a delight it is to discover the new generation of historians like Rick Perlstein not only getting history correct but giving us all fresh insights and understanding of it." John W. Dean Nixon's White House counsel
"Rick Perlstein has written a fascinating account of the rise of Richard Nixon and a persuasive argument that this angry, toxic man will always be part of the American landscape." Richard Reeves author of President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination
"Nixonland is a grand historical epic. Rick Perlstein has turned a story we think we know American politics between the opposing presidential landslides of 1964 and 1972 into an often surprising and always fascinating new narrative. This riveting book, full of colorful detail and great characters, brings back to life an astonishing era and shines a new light on our own." Jeffrey Toobin author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court
"Rick Perlstein's Nixonland digs deep into a decisive period of our history and brings back a past that is all the scarier for its intense humanity. With a firm grasp on the larger meaning of countless events and personalities, many of them long forgotten, Perlstein superbly shows how paranoia and innuendo flowed into the mainstream of American politics after 1968, creating divisive passions that have survived for decades." Sean Wilentz Princeton University, author of The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008
"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....And he has the eye of a great documentarian, fastening not only on the obvious historical set pieces (Kent State, Watts, Attica), but on the not-so-obvious ones as well." Ross Douthat, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
From one of America's most talented historians comes a brilliant new account of Richard Nixon set against the violent passions of America's 1960s civil war that reveals the riveting backstory to the red state/blue state resentments that divide the nation today.
About the Author
Rick Perlstein was born in Wisconsin in 1969. He writes about history and current affairs for publications including The Washington Post, The New York Observer, Feed, and The Nation. He won the National Endowment for the Humanities' most prestigious grant for independent scholars. Perlstein lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Table of Contents
1 Hell in the City of Angels
2 The Orthogonian
3 The Stench
4 Ronald Reagan
5 Long, Hot Summer
6 School Was in Session...
7 Batting Average
8 The Bombing
9 Summer of Love
10 In Which a Cruise Ship Full of Governors Inspires Considerations on the Nature of Old and New Politics
12 The Sky's the Limit
14 From Miami to the Siege of Chicago
15 Wednesday, August 28, 1968
17 The First One Hundred Days
19 If Gold Rust
20 The Presidential Offensive
21 The Polarization
25 Agnew's Election
26 How to Survive the Debacle
27 Cruelest Month
29 The Coven
30 The Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and George Wallace
31 The Spring Offensive
33 In Which Playboy Bunnies, and Barbarella, and Tanya, Inspire Theoretical Considerations upon the Nature of Democracy
34 Not Half Enough