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Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (American Presidential Elections) Hardcover – 30 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (30 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700619631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700619634
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 17.1 x 24.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 889,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"In "Resilient America," Michael Nelson, one of our nation's preeminent experts on the Presidency, takes a fascinating look at the pivotal 1968 election, one that in many ways created some of the contours that we see in our political scene today. Held during one of the most turbulent periods in American history, Nelson argues that whether one agrees with the outcome or not, the election served its purpose, creating some degree of resolution and stability at a time when it was so badly needed." -Charles E. Cook, Jr., columnist for the "National Journal" and editor & publisher of "The Cook Political Report"

About the Author

Michael Nelson, the Fulmer Professor of Political Science at Rhodes College, is a Fellow of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History and a Senior Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. He is the author of numerous books, including, most recently, The American Presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2011, with Sidney M. Milkis and How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation, with John L. Mason, winner of the 2009 V. O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics from the Southern Political Science Association.

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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Shadow of 1968 and Today's America 30 April 2014
By The Ginger Man - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even though much has been written about the1968 presidential election, Michael Nelson has managed in this volume to provide new insights into this watershed event. Nelson draws three important conclusions from the years leading up to and following Nixon's ascent to the Oval Office.

First, he shows how the GOP changed their fortunes after one of the worst losses in American political history in 1964. Beginning with the 1968 election, Republicans were able to split conservative Southern whites and working class whites off from the New Deal coalition by focusing on social issues that had been declining in importance since the Progressive Era and virtually dormant since FDR. Nixon's campaign rhetoric echoed California Governor Reagan and turned "riots, welfare, crime and student protests" into a cudgel to be used against liberals. "Never in political history," observes Nelson, "had a presidential nominee raised crime as a significant issue." Republicans used "racial conservatism" born of distrust of the role of the federal government in the struggle for civil rights as well as anxiety about growing inner city violence to attract voters. Finally, the GOP capitalized on a form of cultural populism, rousing grass roots resentment against a perceived governmental, intellectual and media elite.

Since 1932, the GOP's only success in presidential politics had occurred when Ike's personal brand equity helped the party to consecutive wins in 1952 and 1956. Nixon's 1968 transition began a run of 5 of 6 election wins marred only by the post Watergate Carter victory.

Secondly, the election and its aftermath initiated a historically unprecedented period of divided government. From 1900 through 1964, the chief executive enjoyed a shared majority party in Congress 79% of the time. In fact, not one president after Zachery Taylor faced an opponent-controlled legislature in both houses. From 1969-2015, however, rule through divided government has prevailed 70% of the time.

Finally, developments during this time began a period of marked polarization as neither party felt the need any longer to balance the liberal and conservative wings of their respective organization. "The election of 1968," argues Nelson, "is the root of all this change."

Even though the author provides cogent and valuable analysis, most of the book is a narrative and character driven story of politics beginning in Goldwater's massive loss in 1964 and ending in Nixon's efforts to consolidate power in his first term. He succeeds in following Robert Caro's advice to make the story thrilling if the events were exciting.

In the end, Nelson shows how a political system which seemed to be in the process of being torn apart demonstrated its resilience. Defined as "endurance in the face of chronic stress," this resilience has taken the form of polarization, divided government and occasional paralysis while managing to endure.

Along the way, the author provides fascinating tidbits such as the following for political junkies such as:

1. No Democrat carried now progressive Vermont until LBJ in1964.
2. Conversely, no Deep South state voted Republican from Reconstruction through 1964 (except Louisiana in 1956).
3. Poor Southern whites were among the nation's most liberal constituencies on non-racial economic issues (i.e. full employment, improved education, low cost medical care) in the fifties.
4. In the New Hampshire primary that destroyed LBJ's re-election hopes, 40% of Gene McCarthy's voters wanted the US to get out of Viet Nam while 60% wanted the president to use more force there.
5. While Goldwater suffered one of the largest losses in American political history in 1964, he helped pave the way for a Republican comeback by attracting an unprecedented four million volunteers and one million donors.
6. Anti-war protestors who prevented any bump in the fortunes of the Democratic nominees as a result of the Chicago convention riots targeted Democrats because they could afford to organize for only one convention and thought LBJ would be the standard bearer.

Resilient America is brief, convincing and compelling in a mere 250 pages. This University of Kansas Press book may not have the publicity and distribution advantages of more heralded recent political history releases, but is more valuable than many of them and deserving of a wide readership.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great Reminder of the Politics of the Late '60's/Early '70's 19 May 2014
By C. William Booher, Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one who was coming of age politically during that time, I found it to be a reminder of what was happening in America and the Players at that time. One of the last stops of the Humphrey campaign was in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee. I was a student and a report for local TV station. I did a quick interview backstage after his speech and was struck by how exhausted he looked a long national campaign...doubt if he even knew exactly what city he was in at that point.

Just as a footnote, following the shootings at Kent State, President Nixon was not a welcome guest on college campuses. However, his first campus in the aftermath of Kent State was a Neyland Stadium on the U-T campus...with Billy Graham.

Great effort to bring back so many details by the author.
Enjoybale book! 7 Oct 2014
By John A. Jago, Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perfect book to have included with my other Presidential election books.
Thanks!
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