While political history has plenty to say about the impact of Ronald Reagan’s election to the presidency in 1980, four Senate races that same year have garnered far less attention—despite their similarly profound political effect. Tuesday Night Massacre looks at those races. In examining the defeat in 1980 of Idaho’s Frank Church, South Dakota’s George McGovern, John Culver of Iowa, and Birch Bayh of Indiana, Marc C. Johnson tells the story of the beginnings of the divisive partisanship that has become a constant feature of American politics.
Connecting the dots between the Goldwater era of the 1960s and the ascent of Donald Trump, Tuesday Night Massacre charts the radicalization of the Republican Party and the rise of the independent expenditure campaign, with its divisive, negative techniques, a change that has deeply—and perhaps permanently—warped the culture of bipartisanship that once prevailed in American politics.
On April 29 Johnson will speak about his new book, then be in conversation with the Library’s programs and education manager, Martha Williams.
Marc C. Johnson has worked as a broadcast journalist and communication and crisis management consultant and served as a top aide to Idaho’s longest-serving governor, Cecil D. Andrus. His writing on politics and history has been published in the New York Times, California Journal of Politics and Policy, and Montana The Magazine of Western History and appears regularly on the blog Many Things Considered. Johnson is the author of Tuesday Night Massacre: Four Senate Elections and the Radicalization of the Republican Party (University of Oklahoma Press, 2021) and Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019).