What Would Ronnie Do?

Obama starts the second half of his term with a set of obstacles similar to those that bedeviled Ronald Reagan. On Reagan’s centennial, the president is looking to the past for inspiration.

Perlstein on Populism: Our American Common Sense

Our pundits worry that a populist rage is loose in the land—pitchforks everywhere! My first reaction upon hearing that was to dismiss the word "populist" as a distraction, an epithet meant to recall episodes in which mass rage made sound policy deliberation impossible. Think of dispossessed 19th-century farmers letting their righteous rage at bankers tumble easily into free-floating anger at "Jewish bankers" and then simply at Jews; of 1970s white South Boston parents stabbing busing advocates with American flags. My second reaction was to dismiss the word as inaccurate. What makes this rage "populist"? This is ordinary rage, rational and focused. The lead pitchfork bearers, after all, are people like New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera, who wrote that AIG's Financial Practices Group was guilty of a "scam" at which "we should be furious." You might more accurately call that common sense.Casting my eye over the broader sweep of history, though, I no longer fear populism. The...

Nixon's Dirty Secrets

Beyond the juicy tape excerpts, there are riches in the 90,000 newly released pages of Nixon papers.

Rick Perlstein: A New Message From Watts

We've been on the verge of what seemed like permanent ideological transformation before. For liberals, the most dramatic such moment came with Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory in 1964. "These are the most hopeful times since Christ was born in Bethlehem," Johnson declared while lighting the White House Christmas tree that year. He had already passed a landmark bill outlawing Southern segregation and had launched his War on Poverty. He was about to pass the first federal aid to education, Medicare, the National Endowments for the Humanities and Arts, pioneering environmental legislation and the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The nation's racial ordeal apparently all but surpassed, one of Martin Luther King's deputies proclaimed, "There is no more civil-rights movement. President Johnson signed it out of existence."The rioting in Watts began five nights later. On Aug. 11, 1965, 103rd Street would become known to the world as "Charcoal Alley." A scuffle with police some 15 blocks...