Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-1972
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.
for calm and got it, until a little old lady started whapping one of the bearded hecklers with her umbrella. A chant broke out from another quarter of the audience: “Hit him again harder! Hit him harder!”; radicalization was breaking out all over. The Pentagon, Abbie Hoffman promised in the pages of the hippie rag The Realist, was nothing: “Get ready for a big event at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago next August.” Meanwhile the nation’s governors spent the third week of October
administrative assistant Newton Minow would later say, when he became FCC chair. A working class that was no longer poor, but seemed so much poorer in spirit. And its tribunes: men like…Richard Nixon. That a new American common man was emerging who, thanks to men like Nixon, thought he could be a Republican—to liberals this idea that the “comfortable” class associated with Richard Nixon was a class of victims was enraging. “We do not detect any desperate impoverishment in a man who has bought
her husband, too. Complained Ailes in his notes to Haldeman on the Houston pageant, “I think it is important for the President to show a little more concern for Mrs. Nixon as he moves through the crowd. At one point he walked off in a different direction. Mrs. Nixon wasn’t looking and had to run to catch up. From time to time he should talk to her and smile at her. Women voters are particularly sensitive to how a man treats his wife in public.” On April 20 Nixon went on TV from San Clemente to
President: See Time bestseller lists, December 12 and 19, 1969. The New York Times heralded it: “Nixon TV Adviser on Standby Call,” NYT, September 21, 1969. Then Nixon ordered HEW: Reeves, President Nixon, 119. NAACP ad: “The Blacks: Nixon Doesn’t Pierce the Barrier,” NYT, September 21, 1969. “Cool it, Leon!”: Reeves, President Nixon, 118. “Doesn’t he understand Nixon promised”: Pete McClosky op-ed, San Francisco Chronicle, December 19, 2002. Nixon announced his replacement: Reeves, President
Vietnam War Was Mistake,” WP, June 6, 1971. “What we assumed”: Timothy Crouse, The Boys on the Bus (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974), 242. CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: PING-PONG Nixon had told his patron: Leonard Garment, Crazy Rhythm: From Brooklyn and Jazz to Nixon’s White House, Watergate, and Beyond (New York: Crown, 1997), 86. Nixon’s diplomatic mentor: A. J. Langguth, Our Vietnam: The War, 1954–1975 (New York: Touchstone, 2000), 80. President Kennedy’s people had talked: “Tit for Tat: Two