Brit gets America right

Does it take a Brit to cast a clear eye on America’s recent past? Dominic Sandbrook, a British historian, has certainly done it in Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right. Intensely readable—it opens with the famous scene from Network, in which an enraged Howard Beale urges his viewers to shout out the windows—and chock-full of insights about the moments those of us who survived the ’70s remember all too clearly—gas lines, Whip Inflation Now, the general sense that the best was behind us—Sandbrook shows how the period, a sort of “hangover” to the ’60s, provided the setup for the right-wing backlash and the Reagan ’80s. Sandbrook quite rightly notes that the left’s biggest mistake was to think the combination of neoconservatism and evangelical fundamentalism was just so much nuttiness. One look at Fox News makes that clear.