Book Review: Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

 

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By Rick Perlstein. Essential reading for those interested in understanding the creeping divergence in American politics over the last 50 years. This detailed description strongly challenges the dominant narrative among many historians that there was a widespread coalescence around progressive, liberal, political solutions in the country under JFK and in the early years of LBJ. And that those tendencies represented the spirit of the age, only to come crashing down in the jungles of Vietnam. On the contrary, Perlstein shows that through it all there was a strong conservative reaction gestating just out of plain sight. He posits that LBJ’s landslide victory in 1964 was as much a product of a bumbling Goldwater campaign, bad timing and a devious opposition as it was a statement of national political consensus. The Goldwater revolution was just put on hold temporarily only to burst into the open sixteen years later with the coming of Ronald Reagan. In many ways Goldwater’s shadow is as long today as are those of JFK and LBJ. Highly recommended. RF

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