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Before the storm : Barry Goldwater and the…

Before the storm : Barry Goldwater and the unmaking of the American… (original 2001; edition 2001)

by Rick Perlstein

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276541,007 (4.05)12
Title:Before the storm : Barry Goldwater and the unmaking of the American consensus
Authors:Rick Perlstein
Info:New York: Hill and Wang, 2001. xvi, 671 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm. 1st ed
Collections:Wishlist, Connections-Recommendations
Tags:nonfiction, ∫LT-robmickey, ∫Review-JAH, history, 20th century, 1960s, Young Americans for Freedom, Merry Pranksters, Boston Strangler, free speech movement, National Indignation Convention, Mothers for a Moral America, Barry Goldwater, presidential campaigns, 1964, conservatives, CG E661-799, conservatism, presidents, politics, United States, Arizona

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Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein (2001)

1960s (67)

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A thoroughly detailed and fascinating account of the Goldwater movement and the 1964 presidential campaign. If you're a political junkie like me, this is practically catnip; the text runs to more than five hundred pages, but it fairly flew by. Perlstein goes far beyond straight-up political history, though, bringing in all kinds of social/media/cultural elements to contextualize the politics. And no matter how much you think you know about the '64 campaign, you'll learn something new, I can almost guarantee it.

And the best part is, Perlstein's written two more books so far, so there's plenty more catnip to be had. ( )
  JBD1 | Sep 2, 2014 |
Story of the complacent and confident Moderate wing of the Republican party overwhelmed by a vocal and active Conservative minority...in 1964. Good book, sequel (Nixonland) was better and an easier read. ( )
  bontley | Aug 24, 2013 |
I bought Before the Storm after reading Perlstein's Nixonland expecting it to be not a prequel, but the first of what will most likely be multi-volume history of the rise of the conservative movement in the United States. Before the Storm not only fulfilled, but exceeded those expectations as one learns the roots of conservative ideas and how slowly they were put into words to that could be consumed by the average American one day. Before the Storm is also about how the conservative movement found their standard-bearer in Barry Goldwater, who was reluctant to take up the call and when he did surrounded himself with those unequal to the task of a national political campaign. But as Perlstein shows while Goldwater's official campaign failed, the political operatives that has set-up his nomination before being discarded had established themselves in "unofficial" citizen groups planting the beginnings of an army to be reaped later by Ronald Reagan.

If one could find faults it would be that Perlstein didn't give an in-depth description of the 1952 GOP Convention that conservatives always pointed out as being stolen from them, it was referenced many times but never delved into.

To those wanting to understand our present political landscape, I recommend this book to know how it developed in the past. ( )
  mattries37315 | Jul 16, 2012 |
The best book I have ever read on modern American politics and I was a political science major in college. I lived through this era, but knew very little at the time of what Perlstein discovered in his research and vividly describes. The 1984 Presidential election was the first one I worked on (although not eligible to vote). So feared by East Coast Republicans that volunteers successfully fund-raised for the Democratic Party in my area, but instead of soliciting "Dollars for Democrats," as the Party previously did, we sought donations in the name of "Dollars for Johnson." The book superbly captures the fear and anger that lay at the root of the Goldwater phenomenon, as well as well-thought-out practical organizing tactics Goldwater supporters used to capture the nomination against great odds, which Perstein persuasively argues they consciously borrowed from principles used by American Communists in the 1930s and 1940s. The book also anticipates the contemporary Tea Party movement, particularly the true-believer, uncompromising nature of what passes for American "conservativism" today.
1 vote dzdorfman | Sep 22, 2010 |
Rick Perlstein seems to have never met a political anecdote he didn't like, as this is largely an over-stuffed sandwich of the political anecdotes associated with the rise and fall of Barry Goldwater as a presidential candidate. Perlstein thus takes you from the machinations of the conservative activists disgusted with the corporate liberalism the Republican leadership embraced after the final failure of Robert Taft, to Goldwater's love/hate relationship with the whole idea of being his party's standard bearer, to the self-sabotage inflicted by the the "Arizona Mafia" surrounding Goldwater, and winding up with Lyndon Johnson's drive to achieve total victory using Kennedy's martyrdom and the fear Goldwater inspired in non-enthusiasts. The ultimate point being that this was the "beta" test for the GOP style of politics up to the current day, in the wake of the withering of 19th-century style party organization.

What Perlstein doesn't do quite as well is talk about the "American Consensus" that was to shatter in the Sixties. In considering all the social stresses coming to a head as of 1964, one gathers that he regards this notion as being merely an illusion of pundits and academicians who imagined the end of politics. This means his grasp of the context of the time seems a little shallow. This is then mostly a chronicle of fear, not of positive ideals, on either side of the political aisle.

I also wonder a bit whether Perlstein really has a good grasp of military matters, as he only seems prepared to deal with senior military officials as caricatures. Perlstein almost always takes the political figures he's writing about seriously, even if he has little use for their ideology. ( )
  Shrike58 | Mar 28, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0809028581, Paperback)

Not every presidential election is worth a book more than a quarter-century after the last ballot has been counted. The 1964 race was different, though, and author Rick Perlstein knows exactly why. That year, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democrat, trounced his opponent, Barry Goldwater, a Republican senator from Arizona, in a blowout of historic proportions. The conservative wing of the GOP, which had toiled for so long as the minority partner in a coalition dominated by more liberal brethren, finally had risen to power and nominated one of its own, only to see him crash in terrible splendor. It looked like a death, but it was really a birth: a harrowing introduction to politics that would serve conservatives well in the years ahead as they went on to great success. Conservatives learned a lot in 1964:
It was learning how to act: how letters got written, how doors got knocked on, how co-workers could be won over on the coffee break, how to print a bumper sticker and how to pry one off with a razor blade; how to put together a network whose force exceeded the sum of its parts by orders of magnitude; how to talk to a reporter, how to picket, and how, if need be, to infiltrate--how to make the anger boiling inside you ennobling, productive, powerful, instead of embittering.
These were practical lessons that anybody in politics must pick up. For conservatives, the rough indoctrination came in 1964, and Perlstein (who is not a conservative) tells their story in detail and with panache. Before the Storm is not a history of conservative ideas (for that, read The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, by George Nash), but a chronicle of how these ideas began to matter in politics. The victory of Ronald Reagan in 1980--to say nothing of Newt Gingrich in 1994 and George W. Bush in 2000--might not have been possible without the glorious failure of Barry Goldwater in 1964. As Perlstein writes, "You lost in 1964. But something remained after 1964: a movement. An army. An army that could lose a battle, suck it up, regroup, then live to fight a thousand battles more." --John J. Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Before the Storm begins in a time very much like the present - the tail end of the 1950s, with America affluent, confident, and convinced that political ideology was a thing of the past." "But when John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960, conservatives - Midewestern businessmen, Sun Belt suburbanites, Southern segregationists, and thousands of college students - formed a movement to challenge the center-left consensus. They chose as their hero Barry Goldwater - a rich, handsome Arizona Republican who hated liberalism even mor than he did Moscow - and they grew determined to see him elected President." "Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The pundits left conservatism for dead. But by the campaign's end, the consensus found itself squeezed from the left and from the right. As early as 1967 Johnson's Great Society programs were blocked by conservatives in Congress, and the movement had arrived; by 1980 a new conservative standard-bearer, Ronald Reagan, was elected President. Today many of Goldwater's ideas are conventional wisdom for Republications and Democrats alike." "Rick Perlstein's original account of the 1960s as the cradle of the conservative movement is also about a revolution in political culture; fears of threats abroad giving way to concerns of disorder at home; campaigns plotted in back rooms giving way to those staged for television; Americans beginning to think of their nation as divided, not united. Filled with portraits of figures from George Wallace to Nelson Rockefeller to Bill Moyers, Before the Storm is a narrative history that adds greatly to our understanding of that controversial era - and of our own."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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