cover image The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan

Rick Perlstein. Simon & Schuster, $37.50 (928p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8241-6

Perlstein (Nixonland) snuffs out any nostalgic glow in this massive and wide-ranging portrait of 1973 to 1976, from Watergate to Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination. Full of the tragic, the infuriating, and the darkly funny, Perlstein captures the frantic nature of the period: Hank Aaron enduring racist slurs and death threats as he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record; the kidnapping of Patty Hearst; the fall of Saigon; and Chevy Chase mocking the hapless Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live. This was an America that seemed dominated by “suspicious circles”—the skeptics and cynics that led much of America’s cultural and political discourse in the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate. But Perlstein pulls together the threads that hinted at a conservatism in flux and ready for revolution, from violent battles over busing in Boston to anti-Equal Rights Amendment activism, but most of all, Ronald Reagan: his unwavering optimism in America, his carefully constructed image, and his growing appeal to mainstream America. As Perlstein notes in this outstanding work, “America had not yet become Reagan’s America,” but these were pivotal years that laid the groundwork for Reagan’s presidential triumph in 1980. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Aug.)