Whew. I finally finished Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, by Rick Perlstein (Scribner, 2008) last night. I'll write a real review later, but in the meantime, the Cliff Notes version is: Long and slow-going at times, but a fascinating read if you're at all interested in contemporary U.S. history and politics.
Well, looks like I won't have time for much more than the above, as I've fallen several books behind. So, the short version it is. Nixonland is a history of Richard Nixon's rise to power (the bulk of the action occurs between Lyndon Johnson's defeat of Barry Goldwater in 1965 and Nixon's landslide re-election in 1972, though Perlstein does detour back in time to revisit Nixon's earlier years), and an argument about how his use of that power continues to affect American politics today. In short, he traces many of the politics of division that we now take for granted -- specifically, of the right wing's appeal to middle America (a/k/a The Silent Majority, or the Orthagonians ... for a definition of the latter, you'll need to read the book) on Nixon's actions. For a more detailed review, check out this one in the Atlantic Monthly, or this one by George Will in the New York Times. I will add, though, that I especially enjoyed the cameo appearances by many who would later rise to political power: young Oxfordite Bill Clinton leading an anti-war rally at the U.S. Embassy in London; Karl Rove as a sleazy-even-then young RNC campaigner; Jesse Jackson as the leader of the first post-Daley Illinois delegation to the Democratic Convention; a less-than-articulate George W. Bush describing the thrill of his first solo flight
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.