Must Read

Rick Perlstein, The Meaning of Box 722 in light of Sen. Obama's historic victory this week.

Best thing you'll read online today. Heck, maybe this week, and it's quite a week.

This excerpt from the start doesn't really do the essay justice, as it picks up steam as it goes along, but at least it sets the stage,

When I started researching NIXONLAND I knew the congressional elections of 1966 would form a crucial part of the narrative. They'd never really been examined in-depth before, but by my reckoning they were the crucial hinge that formed the ideological alignment we live in now.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson—and, apparently, liberalism—achieved such a gigantic landslide victory that it appeared to pundits the Republican Party would be forever consigned to the outer darkness if it ever entertained a Goldwater-style conservative law-and-order platform again. Two years later, most of the new liberal congressmen swept in on LBJ's coattails—the congressional class that gave us Medicare and Medicaid, the first serious environmental legislation, National Endowments for the Humanities and Arts, Head Start, the Voting Rights Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the end of racist immigration quotas, Legal Aid, and more—was swept out on a tide of popular reaction.

That reaction, I hope I demonstrate effectively in NIXONLAND, rested on two pillars: terror at the wave of urban rioting that began in the Watts district of Los Angeles; and terror at the prospect of the 1966 civil rights bill passing, which, by imposing an ironclad federal ban on racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing—known as “open housing”—would be the first legislation to impact the entire nation equally, not just the South. (What that reaction most decidedly did not rest on: fear and loathing of “hippies,” which were unknown, except in California, to most of the nation until 1967; or antiwar activists, which were not associated with either party, because Republicans and Democrats had about an equal number of hawks and doves in 1966.)

When I learned that the papers of Senator Paul Douglas were at the Chicago Historical Society (as it was known then; now it's cursed with the decidedly more prosaic name the Chicago History Museum), I decided to make Douglas's 1966 loss to Republican Charles Percy a key case study for my hypothesis.

Got anything as good to recommend? Please note it in the comments.

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One Response to Must Read

  1. Brad DeLong says:

    Of the week? Of the month–or the year…

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