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

Lawrence O’Donnell. Penguin Press, $28 (496p) ISBN 978-0-399-56314-0
O’Donnell, the host of MSNBC’s The Last Word, turns to print with an in-depth examination of the tumultuous 1968 election year. Supporting his work with credible sources, O’Donnell argues that 1968 forever changed the direction of American politics. The year was marked by President Lyndon Johnson’s extraordinary decision to decline a second term, the divisive and violent 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and bitter nomination fights at both parties’ nominating conventions, all put into high relief by the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. O’Donnell also posits that Nixon’s defeat of the more liberal Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican nomination sounded the death knell of that party’s liberal wing. Offering a unique thesis on what drove the year’s events, O’Donnell advances the idea that Eugene McCarthy’s decision to run against Johnson led to Johnson’s decision not to run, which spurred R.F.K. into the race and earned Hubert Humphrey the Democratic nomination. O’Donnell further speculates that, had McCarthy not run and Johnson stood for a second term, regardless of who won the 1968 election, R.F.K. would have been elected president in 1972. Instead there was Nixon and Watergate. O’Donnell untangles the many forces that made 1968’s election a watershed event. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2017
Release date: 11/07/2017
Paperback - 800 pages - 978-0-525-49883-4
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-49822-3
Ebook - 978-0-399-56315-7
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