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Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the…

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American… (2001)

by Rick Perlstein

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321734,553 (4.09)12
1960s (63)

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This book focusses on the 1964 election, which looked like disaster for the American conservatism, but turned out to be its seedbed. "Before the Storm" is of course the first volume in a three volume trilogy on the rise of the conservative movement in the U.S., and it does show very clearly that things changed a long time before 1980. Perlstein shows that Goldwater didn't create that movement, but did galvanize it, inspiring a passionate group of believers who became the conservative ground troops in the years ahead. And he also shows that Goldwater's crushing loss in 1964 wasn't just about a still-powerful American consensus. It was about Democratic skullduggery, brilliant advertizing, and an amazingly badly run Republican campaign. Goldwater himself comes across as a remarkably decent person, but as one who never really got into being a Presidential candidate.

Overall, this book is well worth reading, for anyone with an interest in American politics -- present as well as past. It does at times get a bit bogged down in the granular detail of the campaign: that sort of who said what to whom on what phone call is more interesting when you know who most of the characters are, and a lot of the players from 1964 have slipped into the mist. Still, I enjoyed the book, and am looking forward to the next two in the trilogy. ( )
1 vote annbury | Dec 24, 2014 |
This is a fascinating tale of how the conservatives seemingly highjacked the Republican party in 1964 to nominate Barry Goldwater for president. The election of that year proved to be a disaster, but, of course, the tale won't end there. The organizations, individuals and ideas taking form in 1964 will revive with a renewed vigor later (there are two more volumes in this trilogy). And now, the liberal Republicans that the Goldwater contingent battled that year (Rockefeller, Javits, Scranton etc) long gone and as is their strand of political thought.

At times I found the details of campaigns to be tedious and I would skim a bit, but by and large, this is a very informative and enjoyable book. ( )
  gbelik | Oct 2, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote mattries37315 | Jul 16, 2012 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:16 -0400)

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"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)

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