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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Joseph Crespino writes very well in a very readable style, making his subject come to life. I learned a great deal about Strom Thurmond and the time and place in which he lived. The book has given me a better understanding of the modern South and of the Republican Party as it was reconstituted as a southern political institution. I did not gain any greater sympathy for Thurmond or his southern colleagues, but I have a greater insight into the current state of politics in America.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Few political figures carry as much baggage with them as the late Senator Strom Thurmond. Most people recoil at the mention of his name, immediately associating him with segregation, defense of Jim Crow, the Dixiecrat movement, and his strident conservatism well before conservatism was in fashion. Crespino doesn't seek to exonerate Thurmond or to fashion a hagiography to him, but to explain his larger relevance in America's post-World War II politics, and how he effectively gave birth to the modern conservative movement. Crespino grasps and lays bare Thurmond's inherent contradictions and blatant hypocracy that were always hiding just below the surface of the man. How else do you explain a man who was clearly quite segregationist, yet at the same time who fathered a daughter with a black woman? Or for that matter a staunch New Dealer willing to break with his party over segregation, potentially throwing the 1948 election to the Republicans? For Thurmond it was never about himself, but about the ideas he embraced. Looking around he saw no one else willing to take the lead on the issues he held to and was willing to pick up that banner and lead the charge. Like a modern day John C. Calhoun, Thurmond was willing to stand up to Washington and the political establishment and boldly state what truths he held to be self-evident. It is that aspect of Thurmond that is fascinating. Right or wrong, he was fearless in leading the charge, knowing there were many like him throughout the South and elsewhere that held to these same beliefs. Standing up to your party and your President certainly carries with it many perils, yet Thurmond had the strength of his convictions and if he was going to sin, decided to sin boldly!

The unfolding Civil Rights movement of the 1950s showed that Thurmond was the tip of the spear and that many other white Southern Democrats shared his fear of what would come to pass. Other Southern governors, senators, congressmen, and legislators quickly realized that the changes Thurmond warned of in 1948 were coming to pass. While Thurmond certainly wasn't directing or orchestrating them, he was the spokesman and theorist for their era. Thurmond's attuned political skill also gave him sense the sands were shifting. The election of fellow Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960 told him that the segregation accommodating era of Democratic politics was coming to an end. The resurgence of more conservative elements in the Republican party following the 1956 elections and the ascendancy of Richard Nixon meant Republican were increasingly more in line with Southern values than Democrats. Sensing that shift in the winds Thurmond made a bold move to change his party affiliation at a time when few in the South would have dared or contemplated it. Southern Democrats had always been more conservative socially and fiscally than other members of their party and as Crespino points out Thurmond's breakaway presaged the ascendancy of George Wallace, Nixon's "Southern Strategy", the Moral Majority, and more. While Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan represented a Western variant of conservativism (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) it would take a while for the broader Republican party to create the big tent that could include Southern conservatives.

A polarizing subject such as Strom Thurmond could lead authors to create a polemic or a hagiography, but Crespino does neither here. What results is a well balanced, nuanced, and indepth appraisal of Thurmond and his broader meaning and relevance not just to America's past, but it's present and future. Crespino is not an apologist, but presents Thurmond as he existed. Readers wanting to hate and despise Thurmond as well as those hoping he will be lionized with come away with a new reassessment of Thurmond. If only more political biographies were as well written as this...
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Strom Thurmond's America is the best treatment yet of Ol' Strom. Joseph Crespino has a knack for finding revealing tales which have escaped previous historians and crafting them into a compelling whole which tells us much not just about the Dixiecrat standard bearer himself but also about how those who backed then Governor Thurmond in 1948 came to play an increasingly large role in our governance. This is must reading for any serious student of Southern politics!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is a well written, interesting biography on a Senator who was in many ways responsible for the current problems of the Republican Party. What worked so beautifully in 1972, doesn't really work in a changing America. It's good for conservatives and liberals interested in understanding where the conservative movement's problems of today come from.

It's well written as well, and weaves an interesting story. Thurmond seems to have been a gadfly for many years--and therefore there are many interesting stories to tell. But he wasn't just a gadfly, he also forced regional movement behind a type of conservatism that still dominates the South--and the national Republican Party--today.

I would've given it five stars but for the 11 times the author felt that he was being too sympathetic to Thurmond and went on a tirade about how racist he was. The tirades were certainly true, but after the third time it was like watching reruns of a bad sitcom.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Joseph Crespino's book is an invaluable addition to the handful of biographies already written about the seemingly ageless Strom Thurmond. Whether one admires or detests Thurmond, his role in shaping history is undeniable. "Strom Thurmond's America" is written to appeal not only to academicians, but also to those who are interest in politics, the Civil Rights movement, and the rise of the Republican Party in the Deep South.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I ordered this book for my boss who is a former Georgia politician. He thought that the facts in the book were quite accurate, and that the book was well written!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Think Strom Thurmond, uber-right-winger and segregationist, is a figure from America's political past? Thurmond is the guiding spirit of the modern GOP.
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on January 15, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is a very interesting topic to me - how the south transitioned from D to R. This book reveals some of its roots.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
For those of us who grew up in the South as it desegregated, this is like a blow by blow account of those years.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The value of this book lies in Crespino's linkage of Strom Thurmond's racism to his classism. Opposed to racial equality and justice, Thurmond also denounced labor unions, worker protection and safety legislation, and Great Society programs, while never failing to advocate for military spending, big business subsidies, and deregulation. In his role as precursor to post-war conservatism, Thurmond paved the way for Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, and diminution of American liberalism. Crespino's book is well written and well argued. I highly recommend it.
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