Nut Country

If there was a city most likely to host the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dallas was it. Kennedy himself recognized Dallas’s special and extreme nature, saying to Jackie in Fort Worth on the morning of November 22, “We’re heading into nut country today.” Edward H. Miller makes the persuasive case in this lucid and insightful book that the ultraconservative faction of today’s Republican Party is a product specifically of the political climate of Dallas in the 1950s and early 1960s, which was marked by apocalyptic language, conspiracy theories, and absolutist thought and rhetoric. Miller shows not only that the influential ultraconservative figures in Dallas fomented religious and racial extremism but that the arc of politics bent ever rightward, as otherwise moderate local Republicans were pressured to move away from the center. This faction promoted the creation of the national Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy,” which reversed the party’s historical position on civil rights. This strategy, often credited to Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater in the wake of the crises of the 1960s, has its origins instead in the racial and religious beliefs of extremists in this volatile time and place. Dallas is the root of it all.

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