I had my first glimmering that Jimmy Weinstein was special the first time I met him in the flesh. It was in the mid-’90s, in New York, a time before the fad for the Atkins Diets made what he was about to do seem unusual and even wondrous. He ordered a hamburger – I was used to people his age ordering salad with dressing on the side or “egg beaters” or dry toast or whatever – and he poured half a shaker of salt upon it. He did things his own way: a socialist in the Age of Triangulation.
I really knew Jimmy was special after I moved to Chicago. He had a book coming out, and In These Times asked me to review it. I said I wasn’t interested because I disagreed with it: He thought the Soviet experiment had some nobility in it, and I thought it was shit from start to finish. Something extraordinary happened after that: Jimmy Weinstein sought me out as a friend. This, it seemed, was the requirement: I was someone he knew he could argue with. Thinking about his life, that makes perfect sense. Setting up new staging grounds for arguments–Studies on the Left, Socialist Review, In These Times, the Modern Times bookstore in San Francisco, or even a dinner in a Caribbean restaurant where he spun out scenarios for an America without a military-industrial complex in three easy steps while I sat across the table from him and made my case for why that would make the economy collapse – was his life’s work, from the beginning to the end. I can’t think of a calling more noble.
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Rick Perlstein, an In These Times board member, is the author of Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, 1976-1980 (2020), The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (2014), Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), a New York Times bestseller picked as one of the best nonfiction books of the year by over a dozen publications, and Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history. Currently, he is working on a book to be subtitled How America Got This Way.