How many times do I have to say that Rick Perlstein’s work is essential to understanding today’s politics? Okay here’s the elevendyfunfth time. He is the Greatest of All Time explainer/historian of how modern conservatism began and evolved. I have not read his book on Barry Goldwater but Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge are ridiculously informative and entertaining books. Perlstein actually coined the phrase “Conservatism never fails. It is only failed.”
He is interviewed in Slate about this campaign and whether Trump is an extension of Republicanism or an anomaly. Can they recover? How is he reminiscent of George Wallace or Richard Nixon? Not good when those are your analogues, to be sure.
Regarding a Hillary presidency:
The other day I allowed myself the fantasy of what a Clinton presidency is going to look like, and of course the big tactical question for every new president is which of their bills they introduce first, because that’s the one they have the most political capital to get across. I was like, well, it could be her paid family leave bill, it could be her bill for free college for everyone making under $125,000 and the debt relief for everyone. It could be her new tax credits for the very poor, who Peter Edelman—who resigned from the first Clinton administration over welfare reform—has said is the best poverty program he’s seen in a long time. I was like, wow, there really isn’t anything on her plate that isn’t a pretty strong, progressive, populist intervention. I’m pretty certain that there’s very little room for her to abandon that. She’s laid down some pretty strong markers. This is the Hillary Clinton who in her first major speech after the Democratic convention went to Planned Parenthood and gave perhaps the most unflagging, straight ahead, pro-choice message of any Democratic presidential candidate.
That’s some of that optimism that I think progressives can reasonably entertain.