Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire

The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"The 1968 U.S. Presidential election was the young Lawrence O'Donnell's political awakening, and in the decades since it has remained one of his abiding fascinations. For years he has deployed one of America's shrewdest political minds to understanding its dynamics, not just because it is fascinating in itself, but because in it is contained the essence of what makes America different, and how we got to where we are now. Playing With Fire represents O'Donnell's master class in American electioneering, embedded in the epic human drama of a system, and a country, coming apart at the seams in real time. Nothing went according to the script. LBJ was confident he'd dispatch Nixon, the GOP frontrunner; Johnson's greatest fear and real nemesis was RFK. But Kennedy and his team, despite their loathing of the president, weren't prepared to challenge their own party's incumbent. Then, out of nowhere, Eugene McCarthy shocked everyone with his disloyalty and threw his hat in the ring to run against the president and the Vietnam War. A revolution seemed to be taking place, and LBJ, humiliated and bitter, began to look mortal. Then RFK leapt in, LBJ dropped out, and all hell broke loose. Two assassinations and a week of bloody riots in Chicago around the Democratic Convention later, and the old Democratic Party was a smoldering ruin, and, in the last triumph of old machine politics, Hubert Humphrey stood alone in the wreckage. Suddenly Nixon was in the lead, having masterfully maintained a smooth façade behind which he feverishly held his party's right and left wings in the fold, through a succession of ruthless maneuvers to see off George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan, and the great outside threat to his new Southern Strategy, the arch-segregationist George Wallace. But then, amazingly, Humphrey began to close, and so, in late October, Nixon pulled off one of the greatest dirty tricks in American political history, an act that may well meet the statutory definition of treason. The tone was set for Watergate and all else that was to follow, all the way through to today."--Dust jacket flaps.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2017.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780399563140
Branch Call Number: 324.973 O'Do
Characteristics: 484 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jul 10, 2019

I literally picked up this book randomly. When I started reading it, I almost couldn't put it down. It's an incredible in-depth look at the 1968 presidential election written as though the author were in secret meetings on strategy, mischief, and other relevant details. Since I lived through that period and voted also, it opened new levels of understanding of the upheaval happening at that time.

Jul 24, 2018

The 1968 election was a pivotal time in my own coming of age as a college senior. Very interesting to read about the movers and shakers of that year. Much to remember; much to learn.

Mar 21, 2018

"The peace movement won. The peace movement drove U.S. forces out of Vietnam, not the North Vietnamese Army. . .The Nixon-Ford administration would not have declared an end to the war in 1975 if the peace movement hadn't forced them to."
MSNBC host (and writer/producer for "The West Wing") Lawrence O'Donnell takes a look at a pivotal and tumultuous year in American politics. It was the year the Democrats were scrambling for a candidate as Johnson announced he wasn't running, the year MLK and Bobby Kennedy were shot, the year we were mired in Vietnam, the year George Wallace ran as an unrepentant segregationist, and the year, fatefully, the Richard Nixon won the presidency. A lot of this material will be familiar to students of American politics, especially if you're read Rick Perlstein's excellent books "Before the Storm" and "Nixonland," but O'Donnell is an accessible and spirited guide and the events remain captivating and still relevant to our deeply divided political landscape.

Nov 16, 2017

Extremely well organized, sourced and written. A very pleasant surprise and a real page-turner.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at STPL

To Top