The Hardhat Riot Nixon, New York City, and the dawn of the white working-class revolution

David Paul Kuhn

Book - 2020

"In May 1970, four days after Kent State, construction workers chased students through downtown Manhattan, beating scores of protesters bloody. As hardhats clashed with hippies, it soon became clear that something larger was underway- Democrats were at war with themselves. In The Hardhat Riot, David Paul Kuhn tells the fateful story of when the white working class first turned against liberalism, when Richard Nixon seized the breach, and America was forever changed. It was unthinkable one g...eneration 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. This is the story of the schism that tore liberalism apart. In this riveting story- rooted in meticulous research, including thousands of pages of never-before-seen records- we go back to a harrowing day that explains the politics of today. We experience an emerging class conflict between two newly polarized Americas,m and how it all boiled over on one brutal day, when the Democratic Part's future was bludgeoned by its past."--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 974.71/Kuhn Checked In
New York, NY : Oxford University Press [2020]
Physical Description
vi, 404 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [307]-379) and index.
Main Author
David Paul Kuhn (author)
  • Backdrop. "Out for blood"
  • The revolutionaries of Grand Central and Columbia
  • Chicago '68
  • Two moratorium days
  • "Law and order" and the decline of cities
  • The political fallout of "law and order"
  • Blue-collar whites are "rediscovered" (in middle American Gotham)
  • Those who did the fighting and dying
  • The new Left and the "great test for Liberals"
  • Building the Twin Towers, ethnic New York, and race
  • Cambodia and Kent State
  • Kent State shakes New York
  • "Bloody Friday." "U-S-A. all the way!"
  • Melee
  • "About time the silent majority made some noise"
  • Violence becomes "contagious"
  • "We've lost control!"
  • The riot spreads
  • "I'm not having City Hall taken over on my watch"
  • Full circle to Federal Hall
  • Afterward and Aftermath. The days after: Knicks Utopia, a fraught city, and Nixon at the brink
  • The riot reverberates
  • "Workers' Woodstock"
  • "Our people now": Nixon sees a future in an un-silent majority
  • Honor America Day
  • "Born with a potmetal spoon": Nixon launches the GOP's blue-collar strategy
  • How America(s) saw it
  • The end of the beginning.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An account of a mostly forgotten 1970 altercation between New York City construction workers and citizens protesting the continuing war in Southeast Asia. The majority of the violence occurred on May 8, 1970, four days after the Kent State tragedy. Kuhn, who has written for Politico, RealClearPolitics, and CBS News, among other outlets, explains how the tension had been building for several years--and on a variety of fronts. In addition to regular protests around the country, these included the campus of Columbia University, the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the 1969 Moratorium To End the War in Vietnam, and, perhaps most significantly, within the rhetoric of Richard Nixon, both as a candidate and as president. For a few chapters, Kuhn foreshadows the violence committed by the construction workers while providing educated suppositions about why the NYPD seemed mostly unprepared to protect the protesters exercising their First Amendment rights. The graphic accounts of the violence occupy more than 80 pages, a section that ends chillingly: "The reporter asked Tallman, Would you hurt demonstrators again? 'You bet. If they come back here Monday, we'll give them the chase of their lives.' 'We'll kill them,' his friend added." The author focuses not only on the construction workers, protesters, and police, but also NYC Mayor John Lindsay, who noted on the morning of May 8 that the hard hats were "out for blood today." As Kuhn shows, Lindsay, a Republican who, two years later, "was the most liberal candidate in the Democratic race," failed to fully grasp the combustible nature of the conflicting actors. Throughout the narrative, the author wrestles with conflicting ideologies of patriotism, especially as symbolized by the American flag. In a trenchant epilogue, Kuhn connects dots from the events of that summer to the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. A welcome resurrection of a forgotten riot with relevance for our current fragmented political landscape. (b/w photos) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.