52 Political Quotes of Rick Perlstein

” I believe politics is a team sport. That, for awful and unfortunate reasons beyond any of our control, the American system only allows, effectively, for two teams. “
” Call it Camelot’s revenge: the class of court scribes who made it their profession to uphold a make-believe version of America free of conflict and ruled by noble men helped Nixon get away with it for so long – because, after all, America was ruled by noble men. “
” I’m just a Bolshevik with a laptop. “
” I can’t summarize my favorite movie, Jacques Tati’s ‘Play Time.’ You just have to see it. “
” Computers have cut-and-paste functions. So does right-wing historical memory. “
” Leaders are for calling people to their better angels, for helping guide them to a kind of sterner, more mature sense of what we need to do. To me, Reagan’s brand of leadership was what I call ‘a liturgy of absolution.’ He absolved Americans almost in a priestly role to contend with sin. Who wouldn’t want that? “
” There’s a lot of surplus rage from the ’60s that was never really worked through publicly. I think a lot of that rage still exists, and I think you see that when John McCain runs a commercial that beats up on Hillary Clinton’s earmark for a Woodstock museum. “
” Ronald Reagan never did much to make abortion illegal. He did, however, deliver videotaped greetings, fulsome in praise for his hosts, to antiabortion rallies on the Mall. “
” The history of American higher education over the twentieth century is an extraordinary one, the story of the creation of a powerhouse set of institutions that are the envy of the civilized world. Once they were the province, both among the student and faculty bodies, of children of privilege, generally WASPs. “
” Back when I was 16, when I should have been doing normal high school things, I availed myself of my brand new driver’s license to spend as much time as possible in Milwaukee’s Renaissance Book Shop, a tumbledown five-story warehouse that the city was finally able to close down in 2011 for safety reasons. It was my teenage paradise. “
” Prediction is structurally inseparable from the business of punditry: It creates the essential image of indefatigable authority that is punditry’s very architecture; it flows from that calcified image, and it provides the substance for the story that keeps getting told about the inevitability of American progress. “
” There is no freedom without groceries. There are no groceries without freedom. What people call ‘capitalism’ and ‘socialism’ are actually one and inseparable. It’s a virtuous circle. “
” What does it mean to truly believe in America? To wave a flag? Or to struggle toward a more searching alternative to the shallowness of the flag-wavers – to criticize, to interrogate, to analyze, to dissent? “
” One of the most important things liberals don’t understand about conservatism, obscured by too much lazy talk about conservatism’s various ‘wings,’ is that its tenets form a relatively organic base for its adherents, where ‘traditional morality’ serves the interests of laissez-faire economics and vice-versa. “
” Conservatism is, among many other things, a culture. The most important glue binding it together is a shared sense of cultural grievance – the conviction, uniting conservatives high and low, theocratic and plutocratic, neocon and paleocon, that someone, somewhere is looking down their noses at them with a condescending sneer. “
” When downed American pilots were first taken prisoner in North Vietnam in 1964, U.S. policy became pretty much to ignore them – part and parcel of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s determination to keep the costs of his increasingly futile military escalation in Southeast Asia from the public. “
” I’m reverent toward my sources. History is a team sport, and references are how you support your teammates. “
” No historical analogies are exactly precise. “
” The reactionary percentage of the electorate in these United States has been relatively constant since McCarthy’s day; I’d estimate it as hovering around 30 percent. A minority, but one never all that enamored of the niceties of democracy – they see themselves as fighting for the survival of civilization, after all. “
” All right-wing antigovernment rage in America bears a racial component, because liberalism is understood, consciously or unconsciously, as the ideology that steals from hard-working, taxpaying whites and gives the spoils to indolent, grasping blacks. “
” Racial rhetoric has been entwined with government from the start, all the way back to when the enemy was not Obamacare but the Grand Army of the Republic (and further in the past than that: Thomas Jefferson, after all, was derided as ‘the Negro President’). “
” While writing books about the past, I think about the present. It’s not intentional, but somehow my books end up being written under the sign of a political mood. “
” I’ve summarized dozens of books in my literary career; it’s become rather second nature. “
” For conservative leaders, making candidates pay them court, publicly and ostentatiously, is a colossal source of their symbolic power before their followers. It’s kabuki theater, mostly. “
” Bill de Blasio was swept to the New York mayoralty on the promise of getting Gracie Mansion out from under the thumb of corporate elites. “
” Somehow, failures in the public sector are always judged as systematic. The private sector thus exists to ride to the rescue – and their failures are only judged anomalies. A pretty nice arrangement for investors. The only people who suffer are the citizens. “
” Empirical debunking cannot reach the deepest fear of the reactionary mind, which is that the state – that devouring leviathan – will soon swallow up all traces of human volition and dignity. The conclusion is based on conservative moral convictions that reason can’t shake. “
” History does not repeat itself. Nor does it unfold in cycles. The real future is contingent, rich beyond imagining, a perennial gobsmack, tragic and glorious in equal measure; the pundits’ future, spun of ‘conventional wisdom,’ is only a sucker punch to that common-sense fact. “
” Let there be a special place in Hell for pundits who make predictions. “
” Fight injustice, that our children might be blessed. “
” For a movement supposedly devoted to conserving the past, conservatives are oh-so-splendid at forgetting their own past. “
” Indeed, it was largely the clubbiness of the Washington village press corps that let Nixon get away with Watergate and still win his landslide in 1972. “
” The argument that John F. Kennedy was a closet peacenik, ready to give up on what the Vietnamese call the ‘American War’ upon re-election, received its most farcical treatment in Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK.’ “
” There’s no question that Kennedy was an utter failure as a passer of laws during his proverbial thousand days. “
” What is considered ‘conservative’ and what is considered ‘liberal’ changes in any given era. “
” Anticommunism in its modern form was invented by liberals like Harry Truman, the architect of the national security state. The proportion of the voting population that was not anticommunist in 1961 was miniscule. “
” Social conservatism, business conservatism: the one side constitutes the other, like some infernal Mobius strip. “
” Here’s an irony of the history of conservatism’s relationship with business and business’s relationship with conservatism: ‘Wall Street’ used to be the right-wing industrialists of the forties and fifties’ greatest term of derision. (Wall Street was the place that humiliated them by forcing them, hat in hand, to beg for capital). “
” Lyndon B. Johnson thought he’d have the boys home from Vietnam by Christmas – for four Christmases in a row (he never shifted course, and lost his presidency for it). “
” Richard M. Nixon honestly believed in his bones that an organized conspiracy of liberal media insiders had literally been plotting against him ever since he broke Alger Hiss in 1948 (he never shifted course, and lost his soul). “
” Conservatives are time-biders. And they understand, as Corey Robin explains in his indispensable book ‘The Reactionary Mind,’ that the direction of human history is not on their side – that is why they are reactionaries – because, other things equal, civilization does tend towards more inclusion, more emancipation, more liberalism. “
” When conservatives talk to one another, pay attention: they say what they want to do, and mean it. And will do just about anything to get there – even, or especially, claiming that they don’t want to do the thing they want to do, until the time is ripe, and they can do it. “
” I’m a historian. The act of predicting the future discomfits me, in any event – and the bigger the prediction, the more distrusting I am. “
” Personally, speaking as a historian and a storyteller, when it comes to inaccuracy in historical fictioneering, I follow the Shakespeare principle: I’m willing to overlook gobs of mistaken detail if the poetic valence is basically correct. “
” I love trade magazines – any trade’s magazine: by entering into what is taken for granted in a world not your own, you better recognize the vastness of the social universe – for there are so, so many worlds that are not your own. “
” When you’re a writer, you never know which of your pieces are going to gain a toehold and which will not, and it’s best not to care too much. “
” I feel bound to respect Ronald Reagan, as every American should – not least because he chose a career of public service when he could have made a lot more money doing something else, and not least because he took genuine risks for peace. “
” It is a quirk of American culture that each generation of nonconservatives sees the right-wingers of its own generation as the scary ones, then chooses to remember the right-wingers of the last generation as sort of cuddly. “
” Again and again as president, Reagan let it slip that he concurred with fundamentalists’ belief that the world would end in a fiery Armageddon. This did not hurt him politically. The kind of people offended by such talk had already largely abandoned the Republican Party. “
” We Americans love to cite the ‘political spectrum’ as the best way to classify ideologies. The metaphor is incorrect: it implies symmetry. “
” For liberals, generally speaking, honoring procedures – means – is the core of what being ‘principled’ means. For conservatives, fighting for the right outcome – ends – even at the expense of procedural nicety, is what being ‘principled’ means. “
” Sometimes I like to think that the responsibility of every new generation of Democrats is to devise a program that mints new Democrats for another seventy-five years or so. “