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.
1967, Vietcong terrorists shot to death the chief of a hamlet ten miles north of Saigon…”). Atrocities were what the enemy committed; when people said Americans did so, they were making things up. (An episode of CBS’s Mission: Impossible laid out a possible scenario. Related the TV listings: “When a Communist film producer [J. D. Cannon] alters news films in order to depict U.S. soldiers in Viet Nam as murderers, the I.M. Force is sent on a search and destroy mission.”) The notion of the “Summer
above repeating the scurrilous gossip. (“In another version now in the gossip stage, a federal agent secretly assigned to guard Kennedy saw Mary Jo wearily leave the cottage party about 11 p.m. and curl up to sleep in the back seat. Some time later, according to this theory, Kennedy and another girl at the party, Rosemary Keough, got into the car without noticing Mary Jo asleep in back.”) Time featured Chappaquiddick speculation in seven issues in a row. Why had the senator and the secretary left
camera angles. “But he said he didn’t have to teach the President much,” the paper observed. The president found succor in Dixie. The Fifth Circuit had ordered thirty-three Mississippi school districts integrated before the opening of the school year. The districts filed the court-mandated plans; HEW approved them. Then Nixon ordered HEW secretary Finch to send the judge a letter with language dictated by Mississippi senator John Stennis: the September deadline would bring “chaos, confusion, and
children, Kristen and Kimberly, dead. He remembered what one of the intruders, a woman wearing a “floppy hat” and carrying a burning taper, chanted: “Acid is groovy, kill the pigs.” In St. Louis, at 2 a.m. on February 23, the Quonset hut housing Washington University’s Army ROTC program was burned to the ground. In frigid Buffalo, on February 24, the president of the State University of New York campus summoned cops to control the threatened disruption of a basketball game. The next night, forty
1966; Saturday Evening Post, November 5, 1966. “I am for open”: “Senator Douglas Takes the Gloves Off.” Handbills started appearing: PDP, Box 1117, Percy Materials. See also brochure for John Lanigan for state senate with bungalow on the cover—“when our peaceful parks and streets”—opening onto shooting flames—“are turned over to a ‘non-violent’ marching group.” “Backlash in Jersey Is Favoring Case”: NYT, October 30, 1966, 72. President Johnson spoke: “President Scores GOP in Congress at Newark