Historian Carter (Emory Univ.; When the War Was Over, 1985, etc.) tackles racist demagogue George C. Wallace, four-time governor of Alabama and presidential candidate. American politics is angry politics. In giving voice to the demotic opinion so beloved of democracy, politicians have uttered our most noble and our basest rhetoric. One of the angriest of these politicians, one of our very basest rhetoricians, was George Corley Wallace, segregationist governor of Alabama, presidential candidate, white trash rabble-rouser, glad-hander, bad-mouther, echt southern bigot, and, after an assassination attempt, the most familiarand somewhat contriteparaplegic of the early '70s. Wallace grew up in a dead-end Alabama town, married a five-and-ten store clerk named Lurleen, and climbed the greasy pole of Alabama politics. He was a natural, a denizen of the smoky rooms where deals were cut. His favorite speechwriter was a KKK organizer, and by 1968 when he ran for president, he pretty well personified all that was most reprehensible about his country. Carter writes extremely well, and he knows his ground intimately. He is especially interesting on such things as the spiritual link between the southern lower middle class and the Southern California middle class, Okie offspring whose roots lay in the small-town country- music belt of middle America and who initiated the transformation of Ronald Reagan from joke to president, as well as taking immediately to Wallace during his presidential run. However, in attributing the success of the Reagan-era Republican party to a constituency mobilized by a race-baiting southernerand financial liberalCarter seems to be engaging in the sort of complacent elitist theorizing that pisses these people off in the first place. An absorbing, exhaustive, valuable, scary book, slightly marred by disgust with the last people in America that it's okay to be disgusted withwhite trash.
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