The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s

The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s

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by G. Calvin Mackenzie, Robert Weisbrot
     
 

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An engaging be hind-the-scenes look at the lesser-known forces that fueled the profound social reforms of the 1960s

Provocative and incisive , The Liberal Hour reveals how Washington, so often portrayed as a target of reform in the 1960s, was in fact the era's most effective engine of change. The movements of the 1960s have always drawn the most

Overview

An engaging be hind-the-scenes look at the lesser-known forces that fueled the profound social reforms of the 1960s

Provocative and incisive , The Liberal Hour reveals how Washington, so often portrayed as a target of reform in the 1960s, was in fact the era's most effective engine of change. The movements of the 1960s have always drawn the most attention from the decade's chroniclers, but it was in the halls of government-so often the target of protesters' wrath-that the enduring reforms of the era were produced. With nuance and panache, Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot present the real-life characters-from giants like JFK and Johnson to lesser-known senators and congressmen-who drove these reforms and were critical to the passage of key legislation. The Liberal Hour offers an engrossing portrait of this extraordinary moment when more progressive legislation was passed than in almost any other era in American history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
" This is a terrific and timely book-a riveting narrative of one of the most fascinating decades in American history."
-Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals

"A valuable corrective to a lot of hackneyed thinking about the significance of the '60s."
-The New York Times

Barry Gewen
Granted, it's more fun to read about Abbie Hoffman than about Edmund Muskie, but Mr. Mackenzie and Mr. Weisbrot have a persuasive case to make, and even if much of their story has been told before, their overall argument is a valuable corrective to a lot of hackneyed thinking about the significance of the '60s.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Mackenzie and Weisbrot (Maximum Danger), professors of government and history respectively at Colby College, provide an insightful and well-argued analysis of the 1960s' social, economic and policy dynamics that opened both the public and the government to great and necessary social legislation. The authors argue that the postwar movement of political power from the cities to the suburbs, the decline of conservative Southern Democrats' power in the party and the confident climate of prosperity facilitated the greatest and most far-reaching federal legislation since the New Deal. Unlike many historians of this period, Weisbrot and Mackenzie, in addition to telling of key civil rights legislation and Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, also give due and detailed diligence to environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act and the Wilderness Act, which defined strict rules to ensure federally owned wilderness largely remained wilderness. Throughout, the authors reveal how prosperity and a rare window of real opportunity with Democrats in power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue fueled domestic reform. (July 7)

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Library Journal

From 1963 to 1966, liberalism reigned in the United States, and during this brief time a breathtaking number of laws were passed, creating the enduring legacy of the 1960s, say Mackenzie (government, Colby Coll.; The Politics of Presidential Appointments) and Weisbrot (history, Colby Coll.; Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Crisis of American Confidence). Their informed political history reveals how President Kennedy, a liberal work in progress, and President Johnson, "the most skilled and ingenious legislative leader, perhaps of all time," supported by the 89th and 90th Congresses and by the liberal Warren Court, passed such monumental legislation as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, and new laws to protect the environment and to expand aid to higher education. The authors show that liberalism lost public support when it could not meet its overly optimistic goals of ending poverty, healing the racial divide, and, most significantly, financing and winning the Vietnam War. By 1966, liberalism had run its course; the conservative movement gradually emerged to fill the void. This book provides a balance to the many accounts that view the 1960s as most noted for the counterculture, antiwar protestors, and sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll. Strongly recommended for larger public and all academic collections.
—Karl Helicher

Kirkus Reviews
The '60s were not just about the shaggy counterculture-as much was accomplished in reshaping the status quo by "the institutions of national politics and the politicians and bureaucrats who inhabited them."So write Mackenzie (Government/Colby Coll.; The Irony of Reform: Roots of American Political Disenchantment, 1996, etc.) and Weisbrot (History/Colby Coll.; Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Crisis of American Confidence, 2001, etc.), who submit that the story of these often faceless civil servants is little known. Yet, they convincingly demonstrate, the '60s afforded perhaps the last time that a liberal government and a liberally inclined voting populace agreed that government could be an agent of change for social good, and that it could both lead the people and follow their will. At the beginning of the decade, note the authors, much of America was locked in a state of racial apartheid, while Dixiecrat segregationists controlled nearly three-quarters of the standing committees in Congress; women scarcely figured in politics, and not a single major corporation had a woman at its head; the environment was a mess; many cities were impoverished and crime-ridden, their white middle-class population having begun to depart for the suburbs en masse. But since the people largely trusted government, it could do something about all these things and, moreover, actually did do something. Mackenzie and Weisbrot trace the shift of political power to younger liberals such as Philip Hart, Eugene McCarthy and Dan Rostenkowski through the workings of the Democratic Study Group, a party within the Democratic Party that "allowed its leaders to . . . galvanize a liberal coalition onsignificant pieces of legislation." So thorough was the shift that Lyndon Johnson would quietly complain that "John F. Kennedy was a little too conservative to suit my taste." During the years 1963-66, the liberals forced significant progress in almost every aspect of American life. Yet, as the authors suggest, it was the failings of the Johnson administration-particularly the Vietnam War-that eventually ended the liberal moment. Apart from a good, sturdy narrative history, there are useful lessons here for political activists and progressives.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143115465
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/30/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

" This is a terrific and timely book-a riveting narrative of one of the most fascinating decades in American history."
-Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals

"A valuable corrective to a lot of hackneyed thinking about the significance of the '60s."
-The New York Times

Meet the Author

G. Calvin Mackenzie is the Goldfarb Family Professor of Government at Colby College, and has written or edited more than a dozen books on American government and public policy. A Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, he holds a Ph.D. from Harvard and was the John Adams Fellow at the Institute for United States Studies in London. He was also a soldier with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam

Robert Weisbrot is the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at Colby College. He is the author of numerous books, including Freedom Bound: A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Maximum Danger: Kennedy, the Missiles, and the Crisis of American Confidence.

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The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A vibrant and revelatory history of the liberal moment of the 1960s, one which argues that Washington was not simply a target of reform but was, in fact, the era's most effective engine of change