The Creation of Blue and Red America A Special Public Programming Series


In a recent New York Times opinion piece Nate Cohn has argued that the “voters of both parties have now become more ideologically homogeneous than ever before.”

Cohn notes that for the most “politically engaged voters (those who almost always vote), the sorting of liberals and conservatives into the two parties is complete: 99 percent of politically engaged Republicans are more conservative than the median Democrat, while 98 percent of engaged Democrats are more liberal than the median Republican. That’s up from 88 and 84 percent, respectively, in 2004.” These numbers, and Cohn’s larger argument, reflect the fact that political and ideological polarization is an ongoing process.

The Creation of Blue and Red America is a lecture series at Roosevelt House featuring such speakers as acclaimed historian Richard Norton Smith (On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller), biographers Rick Perlstein, Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter, and journalist Jonathan Darman.  The series explores the polarized dynamics of U.S politics, and, with the aid of select scholars, commentators, as well as former government officials, gets to the root of the story. When did things get so bad? What are the consequences of radical partisanship? Has America always been so divided?


  • Richard Norton Smith – “On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller”
    From acclaimed historian Richard Norton Smith comes the definitive life of an American icon: Nelson Rockefeller — one of the most complex and compelling figures of the twentieth century. Fourteen years in the making, this magisterial biography of the original Rockefeller Republican draws on thousands of newly available documents and over two hundred interviews, including Rockefeller’s own unpublished reminiscences.

  • Rick Perlstein – “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Nixon and The Rise Of Reagan”
    Journalist and historian Rick Perlstein is the author of Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), an acclaimed and revelatory look at one of the most chronicled presidencies in American history. In his new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan he offers a portrait of America on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s, connecting the Nixon legacy to the resurgence of the conservative wing of the Republican Party achieved by Ronald Reagan in his first (and failed) campaign for the presidency in 1976. Perlstein tells the story of that campaign and offers a history of how between 1973 and 1976 “a new sort of American politics” emerged – “a stark discourse of reckoning,” the ramifications of which still define our national life.

  • Douglas Brinkley / Luke Nichter – “The Nixon Tapes, 1971-72″
    Douglas Brinkley is an award winning historian, professor of history (at Rice University) and a fellow at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. He discussed the new edition of The Nixon Tapes, 1971-72, a fresh transcription including previously unpublished Nixon conversations, co-edited with Luke Nichter. Brinkley and Nichter talked about what the new tapes reveal about the Nixon White House, and the history of

  • Jonathan Darman – “Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America”
    A special conversation about two giants of American politics, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. Jonathan Darman, author of Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America, was interviewed by New York Times writer-at-large Sam Tanenhaus, about his new book, which recounts how from 1963 to 1966, these two men – the same age, and driven by the same heroic ambitions – changed American politics forever.Jonathan Darman, a former correspondent for Newsweek who covered the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, shows how Johnson and Reagan, opposites in politics and style, shared a defining impulse: to set forth a grand story of America, a story in which he could be the hero. Darman’s book brings to life their vivid personalities and the anxious mood of America in a radically transformative time, revealing how, in their different ways, Johnson and Reagan jointly dismantled the long American tradition of consensus politics and ushered in a new era of fracture.