Still Seeing Red / Edition 1

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Overview


In Still Seeing Red, John Kenneth White explores how the Cold War molded the internal politics of the United States. In a powerful narrative backed by a rich treasure trove of polling data, White takes the reader through the Cold War years, describing its effect in redrawing the electoral map as we came to know it after World War II. The primary beneficiaries of the altered landscape were reinvigorated Republicans who emerged after five successive defeats to tar the Democrats with the “soft on communism” epithet. A new nationalist Republican party—whose Cold War prescription for winning the White House was copyrighted to Dwight Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan—attained primacy in presidential politics because of two contradictory impulses embedded in the American character: a fanatical preoccupation with communism and a robust liberalism. From 1952 to 1988 Republicans won the presidency seven times in ten tries. The rare Democratic victors—John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter—attempted to rearm the Democratic party to fight the Cold War. Their collective failure says much about the politics of the period. Even so, the Republican dream of becoming a majority party became perverted as the Grand Old Party was recast into a top-down party routinely winning the presidency even as its electoral base remained relatively stagnant.In the post–Cold War era, Americans are coming to appreciate how the fifty-year struggle with the Soviet Union organized thinking in such diverse areas as civil rights, social welfare, education, and defense policy. At the same time, Americans are also more aware of how the Cold War shaped their lives—from the “duck and cover” drills in the classrooms to the bomb shelters dug in the backyard when most Baby Boomers were growing up. Like millions of Baby Boomers, Bill Clinton can truthfully say, “I am a child of the Cold War.”With the last gasp of the Soviet Union, Baby Boomers and others are learning that the politics of the Cold War are hard to shed. As the electoral maps are being redrawn once more in the Clinton years, landmarks left behind by the Cold War provide an important reference point. In the height of the Cold War, voters divided the world into “us” noncommunists versus “them” communists and reduced contests for the presidency into battles of which party would be tougher in dealing with the Evil Empire. But in a convoluted post–Cold War era, politics defies such simple characteristics and presidents find it harder to lead. Recalling how John F. Kennedy could so easily rally public opinion, an exasperated Bill Clinton once lamented, “Gosh, I miss the Cold War.”
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The first reaction to this work might be, "Another book on the Cold War?" But White (politics, Catholic Univ. of America) adds new features to this well-known landscape. Building on his The Fractured Electorate (1980) and The New Politics of Old Values (Univ. Pr. of New England, 1990. 2d ed.), he makes his main point: that domestic politics since 1945 was shaped by America's enmity toward the USSR and its Communist system. What makes White's book a little better than most is that he artfully weaves into his story numerous polls conducted during the Cold War consistently revealing that most Americans applauded a tough approach to the Soviets and that both political parties competed strenuously for the title of tougher on the Commies. With the Cold War over, White points out that the United States has no obvious enemy, which has led, he believes, to increased domestic acrimony. This thoughtful critique of how foreign affairs can dictate domestic politics is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.Edward Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
A thorough and thoughtful study, but not the one suggested by the title.

White (Politics/Catholic Univ.) provides an excellent political history of the Cold War era, with painstaking research supporting a well-written, intelligent presentation of rather familiar material. Certainly, no one will dispute his assessment of the Cold War's impact on domestic politics in the 1950s80s: Republicans were the primary beneficiaries because they were able to paint liberals as soft on communism, and Cold War concerns and rhetoric invaded the discussion of every political issue. But the focus suggested by the book's subtitle, on the impact of Cold War politics on the postCold War era, is largely absent. White's examination of this era follows from a foray into the most picked- over subject of political research, the evolution of contemporary political parties. His conclusions are sensible and, again, familiar: A party system with meaningful, programmatic parties has disappeared; presidential campaigns have come to focus on character rather than issues; presidential contests are now fought over the corpse of the Republican rather than the Democratic party; presidential and congressional elections have become increasingly separated in their focus and results. These observations constitute solid historical description, but as political analysis they fall prey to a common dilemma. While it is unavoidably the case—and consequently of limited interest—that an era will shape its successor, determining how it does so requires identifying causal relationships between the two eras. White's work is suggestive but ends at a good place to start. An explanation of how and why we are "still seeing red," rather than a summary of the ways that we are, would have been more welcome and original.

Talented author, mistargeted effort.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813318899
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Series: Transforming American Politics Series
  • Edition description: UPDATED & EXPANDED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 1.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author


John Kenneth White is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America and author of The Fractured Electorate and The New Politics of Old Values. He serves as cochair of the Committee for Party Renewal and as vice president of the Center for Party Development.
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Table of Contents

List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Who Are We? 1
Pt. 1 Cold War Fears and Party Response
1 1945-1946: Lost Innocence 19
2 1947-1950: The New Politics of Old Fears 48
3 1952: The Transforming Election 79
Pt. 2 The Cold War Party System
4 The Nationalist Republicans 107
5 The Divided Democrats 151
Pt. 3 Diminished Parties in Search of a New Politics
6 High Anxiety: Post-Cold War Politics 199
7 The Collapse of the Old Order 254
Notes 287
Bibliography 349
About the Book and Author 371
Index 373
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