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Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus Paperback – Mar 17 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; Reprint edition (March 17 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584126
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 13.8 x 20.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #121,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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By John Denton on June 2 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in the history of the contemporaty American conservative movement, this is close to a "must read". A real strength is Perlstein's research, especially archived private letters of such notables as William F. Buckley, Henry Regnery, Clarence Mannion, and Goldwater himself. Also, the book covers the roles of some figures of the right whose importance has been largely overlooked, e.g., Regnery, Mannion, and Robert Welch.
However, this book is not without its flaws. Though Perlstein's unorthodox prose rather grew on me, some readers might not be so kind. Also, though it is obvious that Perstein is a man with a sense of humor, he was at times a little too cute for my tastes. Along these same lines, Perlstein wore his liberal political bent a little too much on his sleeves. Finally, I am not sure the book lived up to its billing as telling the story of how American political history was forever changed in 1964. In other words, I think the book is better described as "interesting", as opposed to "important". However, this is a quality book, and I tip my hat to Perstein on his first effort.
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Format: Paperback
Rick Perlstein is an excellent writer, and here he tells a great story. He attempts to capture the general mood of the time and especially the political climate. This was in the aftermath of President Kennedy's assassination; words like "hate" and "extremism" were everywhere. And even though the Cold War had thawed slightly after the Bay of Pigs in '62, that war was still very much on people's minds, still very much a source of fear. And that was another watchword for 1964--"fear." DR. STRANGELOVE played on those fears to humorous effect and highlighted the dangers and absurdity of nuclear war. (As another reviewer has pointed out, Perlstein does, however, spend a bit too much time on an overview of that film, important though it was, and afterwards constantly refers to it.)
This is primarily a story about campaign politics, and Perlstein is at his best when describing the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that made Barry Goldwater the Republican nominee. However, readers should know that Perlstein focuses on political action and organization rather than on the animating ideas behind the movement. In general, this doesn't affect the book, but a full appreciation of what people were doing and why requires treatment of the core ideas. For example, Perlstein devotes much space--and many colorful anecdotes--to the activities of the John Birch Society, the Young Americans for Freedom, and the libertarian Republicans in places like Orange County, California, but we don't really get to see why they were cooperative or antagonistic with each other; and the significance of William F. Buckley's uniting project is lost. (For a treatment of the ideas, I'd recommend George Nash's THE CONSERVATIVE INTELLECTUAL MOVEMENT IN AMERICA.
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Format: Paperback
In my experience, it's rare to find a book that features both thorough, impeccable reporting (primary sources, no less) and wonderfully skilled writing. "Before the Storm" is that rare book. I have read it through twice in the two years that I've owned it, and I enjoyed it even more the second time. As a 45-year-old liberal, I harbor little memory and no nostalgia for Mr. Goldwater. Though I enjoy reading political nonfiction, I would not have expected to enjoy a book about a long-ago, lopsided presidential race featuring a right-wing extremist as the Republican candidate. But a New Yorker book review intrigued me, so I checked out the book.
It is the finest book I have read in the past two years. As others have said, readers from all points on the political spectrum will find "Before the Storm" interesting. Why not? A great book transcends narrow labels. I would read anything Rick Perlstein writes, and I anxiously await his next work, whatever it may be.
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Format: Paperback
You don't have to be a political junkie to enjoy Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm - the ultimately quixotic tale of the 1964 nominating fight and presidential campaign of conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. A product of exhaustive research (the Notes and Bibliography alone stretch for nearly 120 pages), Before the Storm transports the reader to the very heart of the '60s where the Cold War and the Vietnam conflict loom large, the assassination of JFK shocks the nation, the Civil Rights movement and college unrest define a generation - and a band of conservative activists establishes a public policy agenda which, though mightily rejected in the 1964 election of Lyndon Johnson, bears surprising fruit a scant two years later in the election of Ronald Reagan as Governor of California.
If you are a fledgling activist, Before the Storm will usher you into the realities of the American political process where politics is war, even the most minute organizational details matter, and all things are ultimately possible.
If you are a student of American history, Before the Storm will bring new life to the story of the '60s for you with real people, real ideas and terribly real events pushing and shoving you in every imaginable direction. After reading Before the Storm you will never view the '60s with simple, rose-colored glasses again.
If you are a child of the '60s, Before the Storm will bring back your youth in bold strokes and striking colors. Whether you see yourself as conservative or liberal, you will feel once again the siren call of human freedom that so clearly marked that generation of Civil Rights Workers and Young Americans for Freedom.
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