Monday, December 19, 2016

A Holiday Break: Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein

Books are always the best holiday gift for me. The only thing I like better than the anticipation of reading a long sought after title is the fondness that comes with remembering the discovery of an unexpected treasure.

As I look back on all the books I've profiled here in 2016, the one I'd most like to revisit is Before the Storm by Rick Perlstein. I blogged about it back in September, and included the following as a kind of introduction:

Last year, when my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas I gave her a definitive answer.

“An author named Rick Perlstein has written a three-volume history of the conservative movement in American politics. Get me all three volumes.”

She did. Before the Storm is volume one, subtitled “Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus.”

And the idea of that American Consensus is key to understanding the genesis of the conservative movement. Between the end of World War II and the rise of Barry Goldwater, Perlstein paints a picture of an America that had forged a great political consensus. The two major parties--then, as now, the Democrats and Republicans--existed in a kind of bipartisan harmony, each standing for essentially the same principles of American exceptionalism and ordained progress mediated by a federal bureaucracy. Each had different policy prescriptions and pet programs, to be sure, but when it came to the great generational wheel of destiny, each essentially agreed that it was spinning the correct way and were willing to apply shoulders with their political rivals.

The book was fascinating enough to read during the hard fought presidential campaign of 2016. I can't help but wonder what additional insights it will offer now that the results of that election have provided a kind of hindsight I hadn't anticipated.

As you enjoy your holiday break, I hope you find some time to curl up with a good book. I know I will.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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