Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics

Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics

by

From the celebrated host of MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, an important and enthralling new account of the presidential election that changed everything, and created American politics as we know it today.
Long before Lawrence O'Donnell was the anchor of his own political talk show, he was the Harvard Law-trained political aide to Senator Patrick Moynihan, one of postwar America's wisest political minds. The 1968 election was O'Donnell's own political coming of age, and Playing With Fire represents his master class in American electioneering, as well as an extraordinary human drama that captures a system, and a country, coming apart at the seams in real time.

Nothing went to script. LBJ was confident he'd dispatch with Nixon, the GOP frontrunner; Johnson's greatest fear and real nemesis was RFK. But Kennedy and his team, despite their loathing of the president, weren't prepared to challenge their own party's incumbent. Then, out of nowhere, Eugene McCarthy shocked everyone with his disloyalty and threw his hat in the ring. A revolution seemed to be taking place, and LBJ, humiliated and bitter, began to look mortal. Then RFK leapt in, and all hell broke loose. Two assassinations and a week of bloody riots in Chicago around the Democratic Convention later, and the old Democratic Party was a smoldering ruin, and, in the last triumph of old machine politics, Hubert Humphrey stood alone in the wreckage.

Suddenly Nixon was the frontrunner, having masterfully maintained a smooth facade behind which he feverishly held his party's right and left wings in the fold through a succession of ruthless maneuvers to see off George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan, and the great outside threat to his new Southern Strategy, the arch-segregationist George Wallace. But then, amazingly, Humphrey began to close, and so, in late October, Nixon pulled off one of the greatest dirty tricks in American political history, an act that may well meet the statutory definition of treason. The tone was set for Watergate and all else that was to follow, all the way through to today.

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Title:Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics
ISBN:9780399563140
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    Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics Reviews

  • Erin

    Until 2016 the most wild and complex modern election was the 1968 election. If a screenwriter had written the '68 election no one would have believed it. Assassinations, riots, treason, war, and liter...

  • Steven Z.

    The publication of MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s new book, PLAYING WITH FIRE: THE 1968 ELECTION AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN POLITICS comes at a propitious moment in American political his...

  • Barbara

    I have been staring at this computer screen for half an hour, trying to find the words to explain how I feel. I think I am so unable to find the words because I am struggling with my 18-year-old self....

  • Penn Jillette

    LOD is one of my best friends. I love his writing and I love him on TV, but the best is when he gets on a jag late at night when we're chatting and just turns world events into a story. This book is t...

  • Jason

    I'd like to begin this review with a question. How do you follow up reading and reviewing the most highly-anticipated book of the year? In my case it was simple to go from one presidential campaign to...

  • Mehrsa

    In my book (The Color of Money), I have a chapter on the 1968 election and as I was writing it, I was thinking "you could write a whole library on this election!" This book is a worthy first volume fo...

  • Joseph J.

    I received my copy through a Goodreads giveaway. I own White's The Making of the President 1968 and An American Melodrama; what else did I need to know about the tragic, tumultuous and eventful electi...

  • Just A. Bean

    For those wondering about author bias, I would say that he's an MSNBC host, profoundly anti-Vietnam war, and quite possibly a Bernie Bro (this unconfirmed, but I have suspicions). He doesn't like Nixo...

  • Christopher Saunders

    Many recent works have revisited the tumultuous 1968 presidential election, which seeded many of the conflicts and resentments American politics still wrestles with today. Though covering well-trod gr...

  • Tracy Rowan

    I was sixteen in 1968, and I remember being a Gene McCarthy supporter in spite of my inability to vote.  I was anti-war, as were most of my friends, I was pro civil rights, and was discovering my con...