The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. — Faulkner
Here begins the first virtual meeting of the BJ Book Group. Today’s topic: the preface and first two chapters of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland.
What do y’all think?
One thing: I hadn’t realized how much Nixon used the “popular media” successfully. I know everyone remembers the Checkers speech as a near-career-killer and the infamous JFK tv debate as a debacle, but Perlstein demonstrates in convincing detail that Nixon used those “failures”, as much as they stung at the time, to dog-whistle to those among his fellow grievance-huggers who would become his Silent Majority.
Another thing: The Goldwaterite wing of the Republican Party — the people now calling themselves Tea Partiers — really does come off as a cult, right from the beginning:
Experts, claiming the Republican tradition of progressivism was as much a part of its identity as the elephant, began talking about a party committing suicide. The Goldwaterites didn’t see suicide. They saw redemption. This was part and parcel of their ideology — that Lyndon Johnson’s “consensus” was their enemy in a battle for the survival of civilization. For them, the idea that calamitous liberal nonsense […] could be described as a “consensus” at all was symbol and substance of America’s moral rot. They also believed the vast majority of ordinary Americans already agreed with them […] It was their article of faith. And faith, and the uncompromising passions attending it, was key to their political makeup. (p.5)