New York Times Notable Book of 2020
In May 1970, four days after Kent State, construction workers chased students through downtown Manhattan, beating scores of protestors bloody. As hardhats clashed with hippies, it soon became clear that something larger was happening; Democrats were at war with themselves. In The Hardhat Riot, David Paul Kuhn tells the fateful story-how chaotic it was, when it began, when the white working class first turned against liberalism, when Richard Nixon seized the breach, and America was forever changed. It was unthinkable one generation before: FDR's "forgotten man" siding with the party of Big Business and, ultimately, paving the way for presidencies from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.
In the shadow of the half-built Twin Towers, on the same day the Knicks rallied against the odds and won their first championship, we relive the schism that tore liberalism apart. We experience the tumult of Nixon's America and John Lindsay's New York City, as festering division explodes into violence. Nixon's advisors realize that this tragic turn is their chance, that the Democratic coalition has collapsed and that "these, quite candidly, are our people now."
In this nail-biting story, Kuhn delivers on meticulous research and reporting, drawing from thousands of pages of never-before-seen records. We go back to a harrowing day that explains the politics of today. We experience the battle between two tribes fighting different wars, soon to become different Americas, ultimately reliving a liberal war that maimed both sides. We come to see how it all was laid bare one brutal day, when the Democratic Party's future was bludgeoned by its past, as if it was a last gasp to say that we once mattered too.