We’ve just come off two star-studded and star-spangled conventions, complete with fog machines, extravagant balloon drops, and rousing speeches from some of our most famous policial leaders. But the real drama—the make-or-break kind of moments— often happens on the campaign trail. From Howard Dean's infamous 2004 scream to Mike Dukakis's tank photograph, it's on the road, in the hotel bars, and in the small town diners where the stuff of political history is often made.

This is the subject of "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson’s new book, "Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History." Dickerson joined Boston Public Radio to discuss some of the major flashpoints in campaign history and share some of his thoughts on the historical parallels with 2016.

Highlights include:

On the similarities between this year's Republican National Convention and 1964, when New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller was booed for suggesting nominee Barry Goldwater was "extreme"

In 1964, Governor Rockefeller, New York governor, is part of the 'Stop Goldwater' movement. Nineteen Republican governors were part of that movement...Rockfeller spoke at the convention and he was going to talk about extremism. He had a plank he wanted to add to the platform basically telling the Republican Party to resist extrmists. All the Goldwater forces knew this plank was really a shot at Goldwater. Rockefeller was using the language of the left and arguing, basically, that the John Birch Society—the virulent anticommunist society—and the KKK, he said, had infiltrated the Republican Party. The Goldwater people found that offensive. They knew what he was up to, and in order to kick his speech out beyond primetime when fewer people would be watching it, they called for a reading of the platform just to burn time. By the time [Rockefeller] got out there for his five minutes, he was already irritated because he’d been shoved into the later part of the evening, and he gets jeered and booed. It was like he was poking lions with a spear, is the way Teddy White put it. 

On whether 2016 is a completely unique campaign

Yes and no. There’s more that is a repeated pattern of history than people let on, or that people know or that people talk about. Let’s take that 1800 election, Adams versus Jefferson, as an example. It’s usually the campaign people go back to when they say, 'you think things are nasty today…well, in 1800, Jefferson called Adams a hermaphrodite.' But indeed, he didn’t. It wasn’t actually Jefferson that did that, it was  guy named James Callenderwho was Jefferson’s attack dog. Callender wrote this in the press—the press back then was super partisan, not just in the sense that it was the Federalists versus the Democratic-Republicans, but editors would come to blows in the street. So it was a pretty tough time. But the difference is, in the old days, you had attack dogs. Now the candidates make attacks on each other out of their own mouths. The Washington Post tallied it up: Trump and Clinton combined mentioned each other in their convention speeches 40 times. In 2012, Obama and Romney only mentioned each other 13 times. In '04, the candidates only mentioned each other three times combined. So that norm that had candidates on the high road and attack dogs doing the low road, the two roads have merged.

On the parallels between Donald Trump and the candidacy of Alabama Governor George Wallace

Trump is very much his own person, but a lot of themes of his campaign can be seen in George Wallace’s campaign in 1968, and the affection his voters had for Wallace in '60 where he said he spoke his mind and said what he believes. That’s certainly true of Trump. Wallace railed against the elite who misunderstood and didn’t look out for the working man. That’s also part of Trump’s pitch. Wallace was obsessed with the polls that said he was doing well, and sometimes had to go hunting pretty far, picking out an obscure Sacramento television station poll that showed him doing well and obsessing about that. We see that from Trump. Thriving on the disruptions at rallies: they once said if there weren’t disruptions at Wallace rallies, he would have to hire actors to create the disruptions, because [during] the disruptions he would say to his audiences: 'These kids who are disrupting' (at this point they were peace marches and riots in the cities) he’d say, 'that’s what he was running against.' He needed that foil in the audience. He’d tell the kids: 'you have your fun now, because after Election Day you’re through in this country.' And the sense there was a return to a kind of way things were before the government was meddling in your life, and you hear a lot of those themes with Donald Trump as well.

To hear more from John Dickerson, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.