A political reporter by trade (first with the New York Times, now with the Washington Post), E.J. Dionne has written a book that historians ought to envy. It offers a well-integrated, carefully argued
interpretation of a large chunk of our political history—the period since the Second World War, with particular attention to the dissolution of the
New Deal coalition and the rise of the New Right. Dionne’s treatment is highly selective, of course; he makes no claim to comprehensive coverage. His subject is political ideology; but since he believes that ideological conflicts have dominated American politics in the postwar period, he is obliged to say a great deal, sometimes in passing and sometimes at length, about the major politicians, movements, and presidents of the last forty-five years. His analysis of the Carter presidency is particularly astute—one of the few that explains Carter’s downfall without
making it impossible to explain how he got elected in the first place.
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