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History

AuH20 + 1964.


Let Scranton and Rockefeller make their token gestures at the ticket; let Romney and Rhodes snub it altogether. Nixon had been as nauseated by the [1964] convention — literally, he would claim in his memoirs — as any of them. Only he had swallowed his bile — and swallowed the rubber chicken, the back-room whiskey, and the church-basement juice, sitting in airports, sleeping in airplanes (or not sleeping, if it was a prop plane that rattled like the end of the world), gripping and grinning just as he had for his party every two years since 1946. Once more he would pack the bags, kiss the girls goodbye, and set out to collect the chits. It was a habit, strategy, a way of life.”

I did quite a bit of history reading over the vacation, and write-ups will follow in the orals prep subsection in short order. (In fact, expect that portion of the site to heat up over the next few months, since – other than TA’ing for Ken Jackson’s perennial “History of NYC” class – that’s all I’ll be doing for the rest of 2003.) But I’d be remiss if I didn’t hype Rick Perlstein’s Before the Storm here. Simply put, I was awed by this book – Covering the Goldwater movement of the early 1960’s (i.e. the birth of modern conservatism), it’s massively researched and amazingly well-written, and easily the best recent work of political history I’ve read in months. (I do have quibbles – I don’t think Perlstein is completely fair to Kennedy, for example. But they pale in comparison to the strengths of this tome.)

The book also made me realize that I – and most other progressives, liberals, and assorted other lefties – really need to be more of a joiner. As Perlstein’s book notes, much of the rise of Reagan in ’66 can be attributed to the organization of the Goldwater groupies through ’64. As such, I particularly recommend this book to folks out there who’ve already gone full-out for Team Dean, since Before the Storm seems a great primer on how to exploit the niches of the system in order to buck the party establishment. Very good stuff.

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