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Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

Perlstein, Rick Author

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A bold and astute narrative history of conservatism's climb and one of the best-reviewed books of 2001.

Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm tells the story of the rise of the conservative movement in the liberal 1960s -- a story that, until this book, had never been told. The figure at the heart of the story is, of course, Barry Goldwater, the handsome renegade Republican from Arizona who loathed the federal government, despised liberals on sight, and mocked "peaceful coexistence" with the USSR. But Perlstein's narrative shines a light on a whole world of conservatives and their antagonists, including William F. Buckley, Nelson Rockefeller, and Bill Moyers. Vividly and thrillingly written, Before the Storm is already recognized as an essential book about the 1960s.

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Review:

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

From the Inside Flap:

Praise for BEFORE THE STORM:

"Occasionally a book comes along which causes historians to rethink an entire era. Rick Perlstein's remarkable BEFORE THE STORM: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus is such an achievement: elegantly written, copiously researched, brimming with fresh anecdotes. Perlstein illuminates how conservatism erupted into a mass political movement while the academic scholars and media pundits were embracing Great Society Liberalism and Counterculture Despair. A truly landmark study." --Douglas Brinkley, author of THE UNFINISHED PRESIDENCY: Jimmy Carter's Journey Beyond the White House

"Before the Storm is one of the finest studies of the American right to appear since the days of Hofstadter. Read it and understand where the mad public faiths of our own day came from." --Thomas Frank, editor of THE BAFFLER and author of ONE MARKET UNDER GOD

"Perlstein writes with panache and insight about a pivotal moment in modern American history. A must read for anyone interested in the intertwined fates of conservatism and liberalism in the politics of the last half-century." --David M. Kennedy, author of FREEDOM FROM FEAR: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

"Finally, a gifted writer has told the full story of the difficult birth and exuberant adolescence of the conservative movement that went on to transform American politics. Rick Perlstein's indispensable history is stuffed with wit, learning, and drama. After reading it, you will never think of the 1960s in the same way again." --Michael Kazin, co-author, AMERICA DIVIDED: The Civil War of the 1960s

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Perlstein, Rick Author
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Book Description Hill and Wang, 2002. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: In an astute and surprising history of the 1960s as the cradle of the conservative movement, Perlstein's gutsy narrative history profiles the rise of Barry Goldwater, the rich, handsome Arizona Republican who scorned the federal bureaucracy and despised liberals on sight.16 pp. of photos. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0809028581

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