Riveting. Perlstein’s book is long, but moves at a fast clip; I stayed up late three nights in a row to finish the last half of the book.
He doesn’t explicitly draw any analogies with our last few elections, but the parallels are there: disillusioned voters; party elites that ignored insurgencies until it was too late to stop them; division of the world into good people and bad people, with any tactics that stopped the bad people allowed.
Not exactly comforting, but it did make me feel better to know that these problems are not new, and they can be overcome.
Three of the many, many things I learned:
- Republican Party of 1976 was much more liberal: party platform that year supported the Equal Rights Amendment, like it had every year since 1940.
- The idea that there are still hundreds of POWs in Vietnam is based on a lie: Nixon inflated the number of POWs from 587 to 1,600 so North Vietnam looked worse. Once the real POWs came home, he didn’t reveal the truth.
- New York City almost declared bankruptcy in 1975. When the city asked President Ford’s government to bail them out, Ford (and Reagan, and Rumsfeld, and Cheney) not only said no, they were glad to see the great city brought low.