Gordon’s book is a must-read for anyone wondering over the last several months how we ended up as a country — with the first African-American president not even a year out of office — facing a group of golf shirt-wearing young white men marching onto the campus of a prestigious university carrying torches and chanting 'Jews will not replace us,' a president who has demonized Mexicans and other immigrants, and unabashed white nationalist ideology from the likes of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka at work in the White House. Gordon documents not only the mechanics of how the Ku Klux Klan roared back to power, both socially and politically, in the 1920s but why. The parallels between then and now, branding differences aside, could not be more evident.
A slim volume that largely synthesizes the already substantial literature on its subject, The Second Coming of the KKK nevertheless offers readers something new: The book is written, quite self-consciously, for this moment. Unlike other historians who strive for an ever-elusive objectivity, Gordon is refreshingly blunt about who she is and why she wrote it … Despite her lack of sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan, her approach to the group is a model of historical empathy. Unlike a previous generation of liberal and leftist scholars who dismissed far-right movements like the Klan as the result of ‘irrational paranoia,’ Gordon takes her topic quite seriously, and comes away with serious lessons … The chief success of The Second Coming of the KKK is the way in which Gordon makes clear that the organization was not an outlier, but perfectly in tune with its time … They are, as the Klan insisted a century ago, ‘100% American.’
Gordon’s is a thoughtful explanation of the Klan’s appeal in the fast-urbanizing America of the 1920s, which was leaving behind an earlier nation based, in imagined memory, on self-sufficient yeoman farmers, proud blue-collar workers, and virtuous small-town businessmen, all of them going to the same white-steepled church on Sunday.