Book #6: Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics

My goal in 2018 is to read 52 books. Here is a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. Each book is ranked on a 5-star scale (5 is best).

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

I really, really enjoyed this book. I’ve read three books on Bobby Kennedy at this point, and they all leave off, predictably (spoiler alert!) when he dies. This book takes on the entire 1968 presidential race, which includes not only Bobby’s storyline, but the storylines of Nixon, LBJ, Humphrey, Reagan, McCarthy, and several others. It’s incredible to think about the events that occurred during this time period and the effects we still feel to this day. I must read for fans of presidential history.

Amazon’s description of Playing with Fire:

From the host of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, an important and enthralling new account of the presidential election that changed everything, the race that created American politics as we know it today

Nothing went according to the 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 to run against the president and the Vietnam War. A revolution seemed to be taking place, and LBJ, humiliated and bitter, began to look mortal. Then RFK leapt in, LBJ dropped out, 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 façade 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.

Reasons why you might enjoy this book:

  • You’re a presidential history buff
  • You’re curious about how and why we do certain things politically in this country (1968 changed so much!)
  • You have read some Bobby Kennedy books (like me) and you want to see how everything turns out after he’s gone (spoiler: not well!)

Reasons why you might not enjoy this book:

  • You’re not into this kind of history. If you’re not, this book will definitely not be a good fit for you
  • You don’t believe Nixon ever did anything wrong, because let me tell ya, this book lays it out :0