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Nixonland: America's Second Civil War and the Divisive Legacy of Richard Nixon 1965-72

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  4,289 ratings  ·  471 reviews
Politically insightful, Nixonland recaptures the turbulent 60s & early 70s, revealing how Dick Nixon rose from the political grave to seize & hold the presidency. Perlstein's account begins with the '65 Watts riots, nine months after Johnson's landslide victory over Goldwater appeared to herald a permanent liberal consensus. Yet the next year, scores of liberals we ...more
Hardcover, 895 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Scribner/Simon & Schuster (NYC)
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Call us America the Schizophrenic.

How else can you explain a country that embraced a right wing philosophy after a devastating terrorist attack that led to blindly following a moron for eight years, yet finally overwhelmingly rejected those politics by voting in the liberal opposition only to seemingly overnight turn into a nation of screaming maniacs who consider spending a dime on anything but guns and prisons a waste of tax payer money?

The cold comfort I got from reading Nixonland was that Am
Paul Bryant
You’re trudging slowly along one of those interminable moving walkways you get in airports; you have your political luggage with you. Each side of the walkway a thousand things are happening, it’s hard to take them all in – newspapers, blaring tv debates, screens showing footage of all kinds of violent bombings and assassinations, there's yelling ranting crowds on each side, there are looming politician’s faces spewing statistics and believable cures for cancer; and raining down on you a steady ...more
I enjoyed Nixonland very much, as Perlstein managed to intermingle many events and personages that were new to me with those of which I was considerably more aware, and to do so with an effortlessly breezy, witty, and readable style; however, this is a long book, and as the pages piled past it felt long—although it never dragged or stalled, it did eventually prove exhausting in the sheer accumulation of details on electioneering and strategizing, rioting and reacting, Vietnam maneuvering and Was ...more
Paul Bryant
A supplemental review! - this is just some of my favourite outrageous quotes from Mr Perlstein and his mostly less than merry pranksters - starting with a jarring fact I found quite jaw-dropping:

…an LA cop stopped a black man named Leonard Deadwyler for speeding through Watts. He had been speeding [his wife] to the nearest hospital, miles away; there was no hospital in Watts, an area twice the size of Manhattan. P89

Here's something that will ring a bell with anyone who watches the news:

The Penta
This was a hard book for me to get through. I had to take breaks and read two other books while getting through this one. It was a bit slow going, and also depressing.

Nixon was the first Republican president who was obsessed with power. Power was much much more important to him then doing the job of the president, which is to care for the welfare of the citizens of the United states. Up until Nixon, the presidents of the time new their job was to serve. To make this nation a great place to live
Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland struck me as the book Hunter Thompson should or could have written, if he hadn't been so totally caught up in a haze of paranoia, drugs, and booze. But, in fairness to Thompson, he was on the ground in real time during these crazy years. What Perlstein captures, however, is Thompson’s full steam ahead energy, while at the same time cataloguing a decade’s worth of political and cultural mayhem (and I mean EVERTHING). To Perlstein’s credit, there are no sacred cows. I we ...more
I have long maintained that the most influential president of the 20th century was not FDR or Reagan but Richard Nixon. While Roosevelt may have created more programs and Reagan changed the economic tone of the nation, Nixon changed how we voted and how our politicians campaigned. And that may have the most longstanding effect on 21st century America.

Rick Perlstein traces that change through the tumultuous career of Richard Nixon. He illustrates how Nixon set on the formula of turning the "silen
It starts with a riot and ends in an elegy, a deep feeling of loss. In between is almost nonstop frantic energy and bad moods. This is not a biography of Nixon, though he broods and connives throughout like Milton’s Devil, this book is a panorama or Boschian landscape of the era that brought this deeply paranoid, inferiority complex plagued man to power. The title of Nixonland is taken from an Adlai Stevenson quote, “a land of slander and scare, of sly innuendo, of poison pen and anonymous phone ...more
This is a lengthy, but very detailed, discussion of how the modern political landscape came to be. Writing too much about it would rehash the book, but the author comes from his background as an analyst of Barry Goldwater's effect on the FDR-Truman consensus to discuss how Nixon leveraged, and extended, social divisions and the rifts in American public consciousness to create his political career.

If you think you fully understand the modern culture wars, and everything that went on in the 1960s,
I put Perlstein’s Nixonland on my "to read" shelf, after I read a very effective and thorough review of the book in the September 1/8, 2010, edition of The Nation. Perstein's book is a must-read for any one interested in the Republican Party's calculated obliteration of whatever tatters and remnants of New World democracy still informed the American polity during the years that Perlstein examines.

I found that this book, although a great read, as one would expect from a much honored journalist,
Pglusman Glusman
I am of the age where, until his death in 1994, I considered Nixon to be the omnipresent evildoer. He was around when I was born, and he was still around 47 years later. You couldn't get rid of him. I felt the boomers would be more correctly called the "Nixon Generation." I was too young to remember him vilifying Helen Gahagan Douglas, but I do remember him as Vice-president getting (literally) stoned in Caracas. I remember him running againt Pat Brown for Governor. His, "you won't have Nixon to ...more
Though one might mistake Nixonland for being an exhaustively researched and detailed biography of Richard Nixon, Rick Perlstein's tome is something very different. Nixonland's central character is not the man himself, but the America in which he rose to power. Nixon's role in these times, the manner in which he manipulated and exploited events, seems of secondary importance (at least to this reader.) Nixonland's real triumph is Perlstein's startlingly vivid resurrection of America in the years 1 ...more
Adam A
The times I've been presented with the story of Richard Nixon, it tended to be some highly moralistic film or play; perhaps a fevered documentary that flashes back and forth between the oval office and some university where protests took place or outside a recruiting center or at a GOP convention. The media had a problem of being unable to separate itself from the dichotomy of the conservatives of the time with the "love generation" which was some Quixotic force of righteousness without a goal t ...more
There is a scene in The West Wing where fictional Pres. Bartlett dismisses modern American history as shallow. if Nixonland is to be believed, it is so much worse than that: sickening, gut-wrenching and depressing. The author draws in every ugly thing of the period (the book follows a person, but is meant to be an overview of the times), only mentioning positive things that can be easily dismissed or which pale starkly next to the evil presented. I read the book quickly, wanting this darkness in ...more
I can't believe I read the whole thing. This is a very important book, full of every detail of this most tumultuous time. It is as exhausting as the times it describes. I am well-versed on this period even though I was not born yet, but there was so much I didn't know, or hadn't drawn connections between, or hadn't placed in a chronology. Another writer might have been more selective in presenting all of these incidents, but I feel it is appropriate to the era to include every possible event. I ...more
A few years behind the times on this one, I know, but "Nixonland" has to be one of the most over-hyped books I've ever read. When all is said and done, it is just a re-packaged version of the "culture war" thesis popular in the early 1990s. The author basically argues that it was the 1960s that opened the door to polarization between conservatives and liberals and that Richard Nixon was an evil puppet master who stoked those divisions and more or less created today's political divisions. While t ...more
For the mission that Perlstein set out to accomplish, namely assessing how America could go from voting in such a large majority for LBJ to voting for Nixon in an equally overwhelmingly way, this book is nearly perfect at accomplishing that. This book is not a biography of Richard Nixon. I think Perlstein's writing is best summed up by something he wrote for the Baffler:

I write long history books that are published with photos of presidents and presidential aspirants on the covers. The photos a
Unexpectedly anecdotal, this is a hugely successful, very persuasive, massively depressing examination of the political shift in the US between the elections of 1964 and 1972 -- particularly harrowing are the discussions of the police violence surrounding the riots of late 1960s and the detailed examinations of the Nixon administration's dirty tricks. Definitely well worth the effort and time (holy crap is it long) to anyone interested in recent American history.
Erik Graff
Dec 21, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: US citizens
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
As time goes by and as more records are released, Richard M. Nixon emerges ever more sullied. This is at once a biography of the man and a history of the USA focused on the years of his two successful campaigns for the presidency. Throughout author Perlstein attempts to describe and understand the schizophrenia apparently dividing the nation as it divided Nixon himself.

Personally, I enjoyed this book as a reminiscent overview of that period from 1967 through 1972 when I was politically active, f
I'll give this three stars and move on (I've got a new "I-get-the-picture" shelf for this one). -- I found the beginning very interesting -- but the book is way, way too long -- and much of it merely a rehash of stuff I remember in real time -; it lacks the analytical intensity that would make plodding through it worthwhile. If I were a quicker reader (which I'm not), I'd gobble it down, perhaps -- but as is, it's beat me...
Nixonland is the history of the United States during the rise and presidency of Nixon, through the 1972 election. It is the story of the government deception and the split between Nixon, the government, and the silent majority, on the one hand, and the young left and protesters of the war on the other. The book is incredibly long, but well written and easy to read. I found the history a bit choppy, and increasingly biased as the book progressed toward through Nixon's duplicity in bombing Cambodi ...more
WARNING: Profanity-laced review coming up.

"With George McGovern as president of the United States, we wouldn't have to have gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago!" --Abraham Ribicoff condemning Mayor Richard Daley at the 1968 Democratic convention

"Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy motherfucker, go home." --According to an expert lip-reader, this was Mayor Richard J. Daley's response to Ribicoff's criticism

"We felt if we could elect Nixon, we'd get to the revolution that much sooner
OK, it took me months to get through this book. It may have been a mistake to do it in audible, as the narrator tended to the hysteria mode. But, putting that aside, I lived these events and the descriptions of the events seems true. What I cannot opine about are the activities of the various politicians, although they are probably true as well. There are just some folks about whom I'd rather maintain a more postive image, such as Edmund Muskie, who reminded me of my dad everytime I looked at hi ...more
Larry Buhl
There is a reason searing biographies and movies are made about Nixon and not about, say, Gerald Ford or Dwight Eisenhower, or Carter. Unlike those amiable nice guys, Nixon was a true head case and his deep, deep neuroses were used to his advantage, to carve out the politics of personal grievance that shaped the political landscape for two generations. He was a paranoid borderline sociopath but almost pitiable in how his lifelong feelings of inadequacy were heightened in an arena where he really ...more
Warning: this review is a gusher. Here it is, one of my favorite books. I swallowed it whole--all 800 pages of it. Perlstein is simply amazing. He maintains a fast-paced story line that charges like an action movie. He leaks in his own commentary and ironic observations throughout. He culls together all manner of sources and ephemera, from transcribed clips of TV news broadcasts of the era, first-hand accounts of historical events like the ’68 Democratic Convention, memoirs from Nixon’s sides, B ...more
John Martin
If you're looking for a thorough explanation of the American political landscape in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, buy this book. Then read it (which I finally did, after staring at it for six or seven months as it sat on my bookshelf).

I've never been satisfied with the labels used to try to explain how we're divided. Conservative and liberal, red state and blue state, and even Republican and Democrat all miss the mark, and all seem to mean different things to different people. Conserv
This book should be required reading for anyone who forgot or is too young to have experienced the 60's and 70's. I see warnings and threats of political violence posted in my local paper online these days, mostly from the far right. Forty some years ago it actually happened. Factions, far right and far left, shot at, bombed, and killed each other in this country. Both sides were convinced that they were absolutely justified. Today, the Tea Party's embrace of violence (like Palin's use of shooti ...more
If you really want to know "What's the Matter With Kansas" - read this book. Perlstein's fascinating and readable overview of the rise of Richard Nixon is essential reading, as much for how different the 1960s were, and how much is all-too-familiar.

Perlstein documents how Nixon capitalized on the resentment of white voters from the upper-middle class on down, patenting the Republicans' strategy to disrupt the Democrats' New Deal coalition into a dozen ineffective fragments. It's generally a ver
Like a lot of people not old enough to remember the 60s first-hand, my impressions of the era come from pop-culture cliches and simplifications peddled by and for baby boomers. And as a non-American, I've watched the culture wars and political polarization of the U.S. with perplexity. Then I read William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-72, and the era took on more substance for me. Manchester's chapters on the 60s, along with the increased political cont ...more
Karl H.
"Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together. Nixon laughed when I told him this. "Don't worry," he said, "I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you."

-Hunter S. Thompson

Truth be told, the country was not always so divided. Following the New Deal, the nation was moving increasingly to the left- culminating with LBJ's landslide victories and Great Society. It seemed at o
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Eric S. "Rick" Perlstein (born 1969) is an American historian and journalist. He graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in History in 1992. He is a former writer for The Village Voice and The New Republic and the author of numerous articles in other publications. Until March, 2009 he was a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future where he wrote for their blog about the fail ...more
More about Rick Perlstein...
Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan The Stock Ticker and the Superjumbo: How the Democrats Can Once Again Become America's Dominant Political Party The Tribes of America: Journalistic Discoveries of Our People and Their Cultures The Baffler: No. 19

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