Nixonland Book Summary - Nixonland Book explained in key points

Nixonland summary

Rick Perlstein

Brief summary

Nixonland by Rick Perlstein is a historical account of the rise of Richard Nixon and the political and social divisions of the 1960s and 1970s. It delves into the cultural and political landscape that shaped his presidency.

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    Summary of key ideas

    Understanding the Political Landscape

    In Nixonland, Rick Perlstein takes us on a journey through the tumultuous political landscape of the 1960s and early 1970s. He begins by setting the stage with the 1964 presidential election, where Lyndon B. Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater seemed to signal a liberal consensus. However, Perlstein argues that this was a mirage, and the country was actually deeply divided.

    Perlstein introduces us to the concept of 'Nixonland', a metaphorical place where the politics of resentment and division reign. He argues that Richard Nixon, who lost the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy and the 1962 California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown, was a master at exploiting these divisions for his political gain.

    The Rise of Richard Nixon

    Perlstein then delves into Nixon's political resurrection, starting with his successful 1968 presidential campaign. He portrays Nixon as a shrewd strategist who capitalized on the growing discontent over the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the counterculture movement. Nixon's 'southern strategy', designed to appeal to disaffected white voters in the South, played a crucial role in his victory.

    Perlstein also explores the impact of George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, who ran as a third-party candidate and garnered significant support. Wallace's campaign further highlighted the racial and cultural fault lines in American society, reinforcing the idea of Nixonland as a place of division and resentment.

    The Divisive Years

    As Nixon took office, Perlstein argues that the divisions in the country only deepened. The Vietnam War continued to be a source of intense conflict, leading to widespread protests and social unrest. The civil rights movement faced backlash, and the women's liberation movement emerged, further polarizing the nation.

    Perlstein also examines the Watergate scandal, which ultimately led to Nixon's resignation in 1974. He sees Watergate as a symptom of the deep-seated paranoia and ruthlessness that characterized Nixon's presidency, further reinforcing the idea of Nixonland as a place where political norms and ethical boundaries were constantly being tested and breached.

    The Legacy of Nixonland

    In the final part of Nixonland, Perlstein reflects on the lasting impact of this era. He argues that the political fault lines and strategies that emerged during Nixon's presidency continue to shape American politics today. The tactics of exploiting racial and cultural divisions, the erosion of trust in government, and the rise of a politics of resentment all have their roots in Nixonland.

    Perlstein's narrative is not just a historical account but also a cautionary tale. He warns that the toxic political environment of Nixonland, characterized by polarization and distrust, poses a threat to the health of American democracy. By understanding the origins of these divisions, he suggests, we can begin to address and heal them.


    In conclusion, Nixonland is a comprehensive exploration of a pivotal period in American history. Through the lens of Richard Nixon's political career, Perlstein offers a compelling analysis of the deep divisions that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s. He challenges us to confront the legacy of Nixonland and its enduring impact on American politics, urging us to work towards a more united and inclusive future.

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    What is Nixonland about?

    Nixonland by Rick Perlstein is a comprehensive exploration of the political and social landscape in America during Richard Nixon's rise to power. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the book delves into the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, revealing the deep divisions and conflicts that shaped an era and left a lasting impact on the country's political climate.

    Nixonland Review

    Nixonland (2008) delves into the turbulent and transformative era of Richard Nixon's presidency, shedding light on the roots of American divisiveness. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • By examining the socio-political landscape of the time, the author offers a nuanced understanding of the origins of modern conservatism and the culture wars.
    • The book provides insightful analysis of Nixon's tactics, showing how he utilized fear, resentment, and class divides to cultivate his base.
    • With its meticulous research and compelling storytelling, Nixonland transforms historical facts into a captivating narrative that brings the past to life.

    Who should read Nixonland?

    • Readers interested in the history of 1960s America
    • Individuals curious about the rise of Richard Nixon and his impact on the country
    • Those who enjoy in-depth explorations of political and social movements

    About the Author

    Rick Perlstein is a renowned historian and author who has focused on the history of American conservatism. He has written several highly acclaimed books, including Before the Storm and The Invisible Bridge. Perlstein's work provides in-depth analysis of the political and social movements that have shaped the United States. With his meticulous research and engaging storytelling, he offers readers a captivating journey through pivotal moments in American history.

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    Nixonland FAQs 

    What is the main message of Nixonland?

    Nixonland highlights the social and political divisions that shaped America during Richard Nixon's presidency.

    How long does it take to read Nixonland?

    The reading time for Nixonland varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Nixonland a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Nixonland is a captivating read that sheds light on a transformative period in American history.

    Who is the author of Nixonland?

    The author of Nixonland is Rick Perlstein.

    What to read after Nixonland?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Nixonland, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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