George Packer, writing in the May 26 New Yorker, sees the arc of the Republican party in three phases: Nixon (rise), Reagan (peak), and Bush II (flameout). Packer’s source material on Nixon is Rick Perlstein’s awesome Nixonland.
So, how did Nixon — loathed, past his prime and basically walking around with a big “L” on his forehead — manage to not only become the presidential nominee, but go on to win consecutive Republican victories in the midst of the counter-culture revolution? Basically comes down to his knack for fear-mongering among the so-called “silent majority”. Read it and witness the birth of some very clever, if badass, politics.