Rick Perlstein

  • culture July 20, 2016

    Bored in Cleveland

    When I announced I’d be traveling to Cleveland to cover the convention, it soon became a matter of obsessive fascination for my friends and family on Facebook: “Bring a bulletproof vest,” one person after another half-jokingly advised

  • Seeing Red

    Why is there no socialism in the United States? Why, when the industrialization of every other Western nation was accompanied by the evolution of institutions to insure the population ever more generously against economic risk, did the mightiest industrial nation of all go the other way? (Pace the paranoid fantasies of the Tea Party Right.)

    The most famous answer came from the German sociologist Werner Sombart, who blamed material abundance, arguing in 1906 that “on rafts of beef and apple pie, socialist utopias of every description go down to destruction.” But what about the Great Depression,

  • Peeping Ron

    In January of 1965, FBI agents closing in on mobster Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno discovered that the hellion son of an FBI informant code-named T-10 was raising hell alongside Bonanno’s own teenage son. Agents looked to exploit the two boys’ relationship to help break the case—until, that is, J. Edgar Hoover ordered his underlings to instead warn informant T-10 that his son’s mob associations might harm the confidential source’s fledgling political career. The Justice Department never did manage to pin a decent indictment on Joe Bananas. But T-10—and his fledgling political career—did just

  • The American Atom

    One day last November, I spent the morning at Garry Wills’s elegant brick home along the main street of Evanston, Illinois, pondering the Promethean scale of presidential power in the atomic age. Wills’s startling new book, Bomb Power (Penguin Press, $28), argues that the prototype of the modern president is not Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan. It’s General Leslie Groves—the administrator of the Manhattan Project, which Wills says was the inadvertent template for today’s secret government and imperial presidency. And his reasoning will scare the hell out of you.

  • When Liberals Roamed the Capitol

    On August 8, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon gave the first speech outlining his domestic program. Its centerpiece was legislation proposing a federal income floor of sixteen hundred dollars for every American family—in today’s money, almost ten thousand dollars. In this, Nixon’s perpetually active political antennae were failing him; seven months earlier, Gallup had asked its sample, “Would you favor or oppose such a plan?” and 62 percent were against it. But the idea of a “guaranteed minimum income” then commanded such great assent in all the best policy-intellectual circles that this

  • Nixonland

    Democrats started straggling into Miami Beach the second week in July, 1972. One of them was Robert Redford, arriving by train, promoting ‘The Candidate’ on a mock whistle-stop tour. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin set up housekeeping at the run-down Albion Hotel, where Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles once honeymooned. Everywhere, Hoffman and Rubin were mobbed by cops hoping to make it into the documentary that rumor had it Warner’s had paid them millions to shoot. They wouldn’t be doing much in the way of protesting, they promised, so long as the nomination wasn’t stolen from McGovern. “McGovern