A divided nation, an unpopular war, economic uncertainty. Many of the issues of the 1966-1972 U.S. elections are surprisingly familiar today. The circumstances, however, are radically different today. The 1960’s had violent riots that lasted for days. Today, violent crime in America is at a decades-long low.

The lessons of those elections may still yield lessons for contemporary politics, though. In a nutshell: “openness feels like closedness to those previously over-represented” (Book 3, Chapter 24).

The author maintains a steady pace, which helps to undertand the order of events (compared to many accounts of the Watergate break-in, which are told in a backwards-looking investigative style).

Some other surprising lessons:

  • The US was surprisingly close to a universal basic income in 1969
  • By the early 1970’s, conservatives were even more active at counter-protesting than progressives
  • Many Republicans who would become instrumental in the Reagan and (both) Bush administrations cut their teeth under President Nixon
  • Nixon was really, really popular in a way that is difficult to understand today