Defeat in Vietnam, the OPEC oil embargo, Watergate, rising crime rates, and the first signs of the collapsing blue-collar economy marked the mid-1970s as among the toughest periods in American history.
Rick Perlsteinâ€™s current best-seller, Invisible Bridge, chronicles that time. It portrays the rise of Ronald Reagan from the Nixon presidencyâ€™s Watergate demise to the bitterly-contested 1976 Republican nomination fight between Reagan and then-incumbent president Gerald Ford.
I interviewed Perlstein for the Washington Postâ€™s Wonkblog section. For reasons of space, not all of our conversation was posted. Below is an edited transcript of what didnâ€™t fit within the Post. I think itâ€™s pretty interesting: The FBI, Ford vs. Reagan, the legacy of Martin Luther King, the Manson family.
The life of an independent historian
Harold Pollack: Â Youâ€™re one of the few historians who’s doing this work in a free-standing way. You’re not a professor. You’re a writer. Thatâ€™s a difficult path. I can’t say I know too many other folk who are able to do that.
Rick Perlstein: Â Yeah. There have been some challenges. Luckily, I’m now in a very stable place and have been able to put together a solid living doing this. I went to graduate school. I was in a Ph.D program in American Studies. It was much more oriented towards abstruse academic stuff. I really wanted to reach a wider audience. I moved to New York and got into journalism.
HP: The style and sweep of this book does reach a wide audience. Its infusion of popular culture within a broader narrative has reminded several people of William Manchesterâ€™s The glory and the dream. It’s a very long book, but it actually reads very quickly….. Continue reading “A conversation with Rick Perlstein: The bootleg tapes”