YEARS OF DISCORD by John Morton Blum

YEARS OF DISCORD

American Politics and Society, 1961-1974
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A mainstream liberal's view of US political history from the New Frontier to the Watergate scandal. Blum (History/Yale; The Progressive Presidents, 1980, etc.) offers a fresh, comprehensive study of the era with special emphasis on the political trends and thought that acted on the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Administrations. Blum contends that the years 1961-74 were ultimately about ``the appropriate role of the government in solving'' serious national problems. As he notes in an all-too-brief epilogue, landmark decisions made with little popular or Congressional support by those Presidents and by narrow margins at the Supreme Court reverberate in today's most bitter controversies, from abortion rights to police powers. Through his ``reexamination of American liberalism,'' Blum shows how confused, short-sighted foreign-policy initiatives in Vietnam, Cuba, Panama, and elsewhere came at a cost to advances in the domestic welfare. Those advances- -the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the War on Poverty, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Johnson's Great Society as exemplified by innovative educational and medical programs--however short-term or incomplete, benefited millions of underprivileged Americans. But Blum also argues that failure is inevitable when ``a national security state with its military priorities'' is allowed to grow alongside of and is ``predatory'' upon the ``liberal state.'' By taking a roughly chronological approach, Blum provides astute analysis of the judicial activism of the Supreme Court, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy's role in civil rights, the personal excesses and quirks of Nixon and Johnson, and the evolving contradictory roles and powers of the presidency. Blum's insightful linking of political and societal forces to events and the Presidents who shaped (and were shaped by) them aids immensely in a clear understanding of a complicated period. (Thirty-two pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1991
ISBN: 0-393-02969-7
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991