In Bizarro World, Barry Goldwater is ... Howard Dean?

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Ever read Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein?


It's a brilliant look at how Goldwater founded the modern conservative movement.
The parallels to today are startling, a sort of Dean bizarro world stuck on opposite day -- a Republican Party that was trying to be "Democrat-lite" and an establishment hostile to "outsider" forces. With Goldwater railing against his party's establishment and the special interests that controlled it. Throw in innovative use of tactics and technology (Goldwater pioneered the use of direct mail) and a crushing defeat, and you've got the Dean phenomenon.

Of course, that would mean Ronald Reagan's Bizarro world counterpart would be (wait for it) Barack Obama. Hmmm. The book has been on my Amazon wish list for a while; I guess I'm going to have to actually, you know, read it now.

Henry Farrell:

The intellectual genesis of the netroots analysis lies in a book called Before the Storm by left-liberal historian (and TNR contributor) Rick Perlstein. He argues that the conventional narrative of the '60s pays far too much attention to left-wing activism. After all, he observes, the '60s ended with the left smashed by a rising conservative tide that has continued to this day. The real story is that of the grassroots countermobilization on the right, which took its most public form in the Barry Goldwater campaign. This movement built counterparts to the dominant liberal institutions, slowly took control of the Republican Party from the moderates who had been running it, and jerked the national agenda sharply to the right.

Reading history is now a good news/bad news experience. The good news is that some very sharp writers are providing us with some very enlightening insights. The bad news? Realizing that I'm old enough now that I actually remember these events from 40+ years ago.

For example, I picked up a second-hand copy of The Making of the President 1968 at a used book sale the same day that Hillary assassinated RFK again. I was 15 in 1968 and it was the first presidential campaign that I was emotionally invested in. It's an interesting feeling reading this stuff so much later. On one hand, I experienced those times first hand, so I have my own take on it. And/But it is enlightening to read a more studied take on it too.

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