Rick Perlstein

Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. He is a senior fellow and blogger at the Campaign for America's Future.

Recent Articles

Solidarity Squandered

The attacks brought us together until we let them turn us against each other--and damn near everyone else.

The day began in a dull civic deadness. It was an election day, the second Tuesday in September, in one of the world's most political cities. The weather was perfect: a cloudless Indian-summer day. The polls opened at six in the morning. But no one was showing up. Did it even matter who governed? Seven and a half months earlier, a Republican had become president and the sky had not fallen. The federal budget was in surplus. New York was about to enjoy a fiscal windfall from a new 99-year lease on the World Trade Center. The hot issue in the mayoral primary, supposedly, was how the city would spend all the money. But nobody cared. When September 11, 2001, dawned, collective rituals of civic engagement felt like anachronism. Until the hot issue was mooted when the center was transformed into twin, acrid clouds of debris and incinerated human flesh, and everything, as we used to say, changed. How did September 11 change America? We became, of course, so much more frightened that our...

Solidarity Squandered

The attacks brought us together until we let them turn us against each other -- and damn near everyone else.

The day began in a dull civic deadness. It was an election day, the second Tuesday in September, in one of the world's most political cities. The weather was perfect: a cloudless Indian-summer day. The polls opened at six in the morning. But no one was showing up. Did it even matter who governed? Seven and a half months earlier, a Republican had become president and the sky had not fallen. The federal budget was in surplus. New York was about to enjoy a fiscal windfall from a new 99-year lease on the World Trade Center. The hot issue in the mayoral primary, supposedly, was how the city would spend all the money. But nobody cared. When September 11, 2001, dawned, collective rituals of civic engagement felt like anachronism. Until the hot issue was mooted when the center was transformed into twin, acrid clouds of debris and incinerated human flesh, and everything, as we used to say, changed. How did September 11 change America? We became, of course, so much more frightened that our...

Solidarity Squandered

The attacks brought us together until we let them turn us against each other -- and damn near everyone else.

The 1960s, Refracted

While published decades ago, the works of writers like Stanley Crouch and Lisa Jones are still ferociously in the present.

One summer over 15 years ago, three books crossed my horizon at exactly the same time. One was Greg Tate's Flyboy in the Buttermilk . The second was Stanley Crouch's Notes of a Hanging Judge . The third was Lisa Jones' Bulletproof Diva . Read simultaneously, they sent me into a fugue state. They were, indeed, a fugue: three story lines entwining contrapuntally across the same harmonic field. All of them were collections of columns from the Village Voice from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, essayistic commentary from an African American perspective, intellectually allusive, mostly on culture but also suffusively political. Each author's obsessions overlapped: the politics of black music, of style, of gender; the meaning of freedom and community -- and, most dramatically, their common psychic entanglement with a single fraught figure: LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, the black nationalist poet and jazz writer who came to prominence in the 1960s. Lisa Jones was his daughter, the product...

The Truths That Television Can Tell

Ron Howard's new film, Frost/Nixon serves as a daring argument about the way TV can be most virtuous precisely when it acts most like TV.

I noticed it only months later. It certainly wasn't intentional. I chose several dozen photographs to illustrate my book Nixonland , pretty much a random selection of galvanizing images illustrating the general theme of social conflict in the American 1960s and 1970s. And in almost half of them, just as if I had planned it, the accoutrements of media -- microphones, cameras, tape recorders, TV lights, cue cards -- crowd their way into the frame. I knew that one of the unspoken subjects of my book was the way, in the 1960s and 1970s, the electronic mediation of history became central to how history was experienced as such. I quoted Abbie Hoffman's watchword for making social change -- "I fight through the jungles of TV" -- and argued the same could be said for 27-year-old Roger Ailes, whose strategy for social change was getting Richard Nixon elected through hyper-frenetic commercials and introducing into our civic life the fake, make-for-TV "town meeting." Angry silent-majority letter...

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