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American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and…

American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division

by Michael A. Cohen

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201515,329 (4.33)2



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American Maelstrom by Michael A. Cohen does a great job of presenting the 1968 election in the larger context of what that historical moment means to American history. For those of us who still hold strong feelings about the election Cohen manages to avoid very much in the way of partisanship so that the story and its aftermath comes through clearly.

This work does what a good political history book should do: take the information most of us (those old enough to remember it and/or those who have studied it) know and present it in a manner that makes and supports an argument larger than just who won the election. It is the synthesis of the information into a reasonable hypothesis that makes this more than simply the story of the 1968 election. What did it mean for both parties at that time, who was on the rise and who was fading from view? What sort of tactics introduced here would become common in elections to come? The answers to these questions lead directly to the chaos that is the 2016 election.

There are plenty of "good guys" and "bad guys" for readers across the political spectrum. The mistakes made and the strategies implemented will likely anger all who believe that democracy should be used to better the country not to promote one party over the other through manipulation.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in political history as well as political science. While Cohen admirably weaves the events into a larger tale, he does so in a manner that should allow those unfamiliar with the 1968 election to follow along wonderfully. Well worth the read as well to better understand how we got to where we are now with two parties unwilling to work together.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley. ( )
  pomo58 | Jul 14, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 019977756X, Hardcover)

In his presidential inaugural address of January 1965, Lyndon Johnson offered an uplifting vision for America, one that would end poverty and racial injustice. Elected in a landslide over the conservative Republican Barry Goldwater and bolstered by the so-called liberal consensus, economic prosperity, and a strong wave of nostalgia for his martyred predecessor, John Kennedy, Johnson announced the most ambitious government agenda in decades. Three years later, everything had changed. Johnson's approval ratings had plummeted; the liberal consensus was shattered; the war in Vietnam splintered the nation; and the politics of civil rights had created a fierce white backlash. A report from the National Committee for an Effective Congress warned of a "national nervous breakdown."

The election of 1968 was immediately caught up in a swirl of powerful forces, and the nine men who sought the nation's highest office that year attempted to ride them to victory-or merely survive them. On the Democratic side, Eugene McCarthy energized the anti-war movement; George Wallace spoke to the working-class white backlash; Robert Kennedy took on the mantle of his slain brother. Entangled in Vietnam, Johnson, stunningly, opted not to run again, scrambling the odds. On the Republican side, 1968 saw the vindication of Richard Nixon, who outhustled Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan and George Romney, by navigating between the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party. The assassinations of first Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Kennedy seemed to push the country to the brink of chaos, a chaos reflected in the Democratic Convention in Chicago, a televised horror show. Vice President Hubert Humphrey emerged as the nominee, and, finally liberating himself from Johnson's grip, nearly overcame the lead long enjoyed by Nixon who, by exploiting division and channeling the national yearning for order, would be the last man standing.

In American Maelstrom, Michael A. Cohen captures the full drama of this watershed election, establishing 1968 as the hinge between the decline of political liberalism, the ascendancy of conservative populism, and the rise of anti-government attitudes that continue to dominate the nation's political discourse. In this sweeping and immersive book, equal parts compelling analysis and thrilling narrative, Cohen takes us to the very source of our modern politics of division.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 17 Mar 2016 06:10:55 -0400)

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