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American Maelstrom

The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division

Michael A. Cohen (National politics columnist, National politics columnist, The Boston Globe)



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Oxford University Press Inc
15 June 2018
In his presidential inaugural address of January 1965, Lyndon B. 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 F. 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 the 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-governmental 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.
By:   Michael A. Cohen (National politics columnist National politics columnist The Boston Globe)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 233mm,  Width: 148mm,  Spine: 30mm
Weight:   568g
ISBN:   9780190878030
ISBN 10:   0190878037
Series:   Pivotal Moments in World History
Pages:   448
Publication Date:   15 June 2018
Audience:   Professional and scholarly ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Contents Editor's Note Introduction PART I: Before Chapter 1: Backlash Chapter 2: Losing the Middle Ground PART II: The Democrats Chapter 3. A Quiet, Witty Man of Grey Presence Chapter 4. The (Un)happy Warrior Chapter 5: The Most Misunderstood Man in American Politics Chapter 6. ...Out Like A Lion Chapter 7: The Evangelist vs. the Philosopher Chapter 8: The Politics of Joy? PART III: The Republicans Chapter 9: The Cipher Chapter 10: The Short-Lived George Romney Boomlet Chapter 11: The Doer and. the Rising Star of the West PART IV: Wallace Chapter 12: The Demagogue PART V: A Tale of Two Conventions Chapter 13: A Plastic Paradise Chapter 14: A City That Works PART VI: The General Election Chapter 15: What Goes Up Must Come Down; What Goes Down Must Come Up Chapter 16: The Final Storm PART VII: After Chapter 17: Post-Mortem Chapter 18: The Legacy of 1968 Acknowledgements Bibliographic Essay

Michael A. Cohen is a national political columnist for The Boston Globe. He writes regularly on American politics and U.S. foreign policy and has previously been a columnist for the Guardian and Foreign Policy. He is the author of Live from the Campaign Trail: The Greatest Presidential Campaign Speeches of the 20th Century and How They Shaped Modern America. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Reviews for American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division

well-written and highly readable narratives ... thorough in their presentation and offer compelling narratives that a general audience will enjoy and details that will help provide the foundations for scholars to launch into deeper analyses about the sixties, presidential politics, and a host of other fields of inquiry. -- Thomas B. Weyant, H-Net The election of 1968 was one of the most pivotal in American history. With vivid detail and unfailing political wisdom, Michael Cohen explains how that tumultuous contest occurred and why its tremors have continued to shake the nation. --Michael Kazin, co-editor of Dissent and author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation Written like a fast-paced, if far-fetched, political thriller, Michael Cohen's American Maelstrom combines scholarly rigor with narrative drive. Vivid portraits of the protagonists highlight this extraordinary saga that seems at once long ago but also as current as today's Web headlines. --Jeffrey Toobin, author of American Hieress, The Oath, and The Nine The furies unleashed in 1968 are still churning. Michael Cohen does a fine job keeping his head in the maelstrom of the last century, explaining how the meanest impulses of American life found their champions and carried us so far into barbarism. --Todd Gitlin, author of The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, and The Opposition A big, important book about a big, important moment in American history. Taking readers on a fascinating journey through 1968, Cohen revels the forces that shaped the country's politics and culture. Some history, even the best written, can sit on the shelf waiting for that perfect moment to be read. American Maelstrom demands to be read now. I can't imagine a better-timed book. --Stuart Stevens, senior strategist for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign A fluid and penetrating account of that most extraordinary of postwar American election years. Like no one before him, Cohen offers a vivid, powerful collective portrait of the key personalities of 1968, and we see in sharp relief why they acted as they did-and why one result was the politics of division we live with today. --Fredrik Logevall, Professor of International Affairs and History, Harvard University Vivid and compelling... [Cohen] masterfully links the historical antecedents of that momentous election year to the immense and durable political transformation that followed. -- The American Prospect In American Maelstrom, Michael Cohen... provides substantial support for the widely held view that the presidential election was a pivotal moment in American politics... Embedded in Cohen's vivid narrative are smart, sharply-etched portraits of President Lyndon Johnson and the eight men - Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney and Ronald Reagan - who had caught the presidential virus. -- Tulsa World Cohen's captivating volume is the new standard. --Choice Reviews Outstanding... Cohen's telling, in spirited and vigorous prose... is a carefully-researched account of what happened and how it affected future developments. -- The History News Network In Cohen's hands the story [of 1968] reads like a richly imagined novel. --The Jewish Press A fast-paced and engaging account... There are countless books declaring that one particular year--or one month, or even one week--changed everything. They're usually a stretch, but they're fun thought experiments, a chance to spitball on the contingencies of history. American Maelstrom offers a better case than most, plus it provides the irresistible opportunity to cast [2016's] candidates in 1968's drama. --Washington Post, Carlos Lozada [A] sparkling history of the dramatic and violent 1968 election. --The Financial Times American Maelstrom is an impressively well written, researched, organized, and presented study. --Midwest Book Review Spot on... [American Maelstrom] makes an important contribution by bringing out the significance of conservative populism in the 1960s... Readers would do well to look back to 1968 as we all try to figure out what the nation is going through today. --The American Prospect, Julian Zelizer No matter which side of the political divide you sit, American Maelstrom, Michael Cohen's look back at the 1968 election season, is as close to a must-read as there is. --Mike Vaccaro, New York Post [A] thoughtful and revelatory new book. -- Jeet Heer, New Republic Michael Cohen's new account of the 1968 elections, American Maelstrom, is a careful, faithful retelling of the story of that year and what it portended... Cohen's take on Wallace is one of the best features of a very good book, and helpful in understanding the otherwise shocking appeal of Donald Trump. -- Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly [Michael A. Cohen] argues persuasively that this election ushered in the politics of division that has shaped American culture for the past 40 years and more. --America Magazine

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