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review 2018-04-02 06:33
The evolution of party politics
Vindicating Andrew Jackson: The 1828 Election and the Rise of the Two-Party System - Donald B. Cole

The presidential election of 1828 stands as one of the most important in American history, not just, or even primarily, because of the election of Andrew Jackson that year, but because, as Donald Cole argues in this book, it marked the beginnings of the party system in American politics.  While on the surface a contest between Jackson and the incumbent, John Quincy Adams, this was only the culmination of years of political maneuvering and organizing by a host of talented politicians and newspaper publishers.  Cole’s book details the course of this development, looking at how the two sides struggled at both the national and local level to build a party organization that would ensure their candidate’s victory.

 

Cole’s begins his examination with the aftermath of the last presidential election, one of the most bitter and contentious in American history.  Much of the controversy over Adams’s election reflected the changes the nation was undergoing, as a “rising tide of democracy” was broadening the electorate and challenging the domination of political offices by the elite.  Because of this, the quest for the presidency became a contest over who could mobilize this growing population of voters.  To that end, both sides worked to create organizations at the national, state, and local level that could advocate their cause and turn out their supporters.  Here Jackson’s camp had the advantage; though their leading members were people from lower down the social scale than their counterparts, they were hungrier for office and better able to connect with the enlarged electorate.  Yet for all of their handicaps Adams’s main backers, ably organized by Henry Clay and others, were no less determined to hold onto office, and Cole demonstrates that the election ultimately proved much closer than the tally indicates.

 

A longtime historian of the antebellum period, Cole has written a perceptive account of presidential politics in the 1820s.  While never losing sight of the main protagonists, he convincingly demonstrates the decisive role that organizing at the local level played in determining the outcome.  He is careful never to overstate the impact of the election, noting that the formal establishment of the political parties of the period came later, yet he make a strong case for the role of the election in enhancing democracy in the nation through the emergence of organized political camps.  This combination of balance and insight make this book an excellent study not just of the presidential election of 1828, but of the emergence of the modern political process, one that can be read profitably by anyone seeking to understand party politics in our nation today.

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review 2017-11-14 00:00
Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics
Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics - Lawrence O'Donnell For those wondering about author bias, I would say that he's an MSNBC host, profoundly anti-Vietnam war, and quite possibly a Bernie Bro (this unconfirmed, but I have suspicions). He doesn't like Nixon or Regan, but he doesn't seem to like Humphrey either. He's mixed on the LBJ, Kennedy family and most of the rest of the players. (Most of which means that I more or less agree with his politics, even if he strikes me as somewhat to the right of what I'd call a socialist, and probably not what I'd call a feminist.) I'd say he doesn't try to hard to hide any of this in the text. He manages to keep his personal memories of the time more or less out of it, save as the very occasional side comment.

This book read something like "Politics I've Heard Of: The Middle Years," since most of my '60s reading has been on the grassroots stuff like SDS and the Black Panther Party, and most of my politics reading was either more WWII-adjacent or more recent. We see the end of the careers of a number of the WWII people, and either the start of the careers of the recent people, or the parents of the more recent people (Hi, Mittens!). Plus it covers an awkward growing period in politics where the presidential candidate selection process was neither fish nor fowl, and TV was just becoming fully integrated, and oh yeah, there was a war on.

The style is chatty and skims a lot of detail (noticeable when we hit area's I'd covered elsewhere). The author read his own audiobook, which he did well, often doing credible impressions of the various players making speeches and never droning (and certainly not debasing my impression that he was fond of his own voice). His portraits of the personalities of the politicians involved seems pretty solidly researched (mentions of Caro for LBJ, for example), and he uses a lot of transcripts and speeches when he can. I'd be interested to see a paper copy for the end notes.

The three claims of the book are that the 1968 election was one of the zaniest in US history and that the story is worth telling on those grounds; that decisions and outcomes of the election permanently changed the way US elections were run on a number of levels and transitioned the electoral system from the WWII era to more or less the shape it currently takes, and finally that even though the peace ticket failed it helped end the Vietnamese-American War. There are also minor points about continuity with the 2016 election that one feels the author couldn't resist.

I would say that well it's a story worth telling, and was certainly entertaining, the zaniest election prize is a hard one to hold. Almost all of the elections before, during and after the US Civil War could probably give it a run for its money, and the 1868 Johnson-Grant election would beat the pants off it when it comes to flat out odd. How many times has a sitting president run for election on the opposing party's ticket? The transition argument is more convincing, and probably some of the most interesting sections of the book were to do with how completely different the electoral system was fifty years ago, and how that changed how politics were played, as well as the evolution of television advertising and coverage and the impact of protests. The argument that Gene McCarthy's run as a peace candidate against a sitting president in his own party legitimised the anti-war protests with the political mainstream and helped end the Vietnam war isn't really well laid out. One can tell that O'Donnell sees a lot of himself in McCarthy (a fellow Catholic), and hates to say it was all for nothing, or perhaps even ensured that Nixon got in and extended the war. That made me roll my eyes at the conclusion section a bit, but didn't ruin the book.

From my perspective, the book is most interesting on the grounds of an entertaining story, and it holds that pretty well. Bobby Kennedy, LBJ and especially Gene McCarthy hold down the flawed and often tragic hero roles; Nixon is, as always, history's most convincing villain, and there's enough plotting and scheming to fill an epic fantasy trilogy. Would rec if you're interested in more or less the establishment side of the period, be it a liberal one, and lots of gossip and plotting.
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review 2016-11-11 04:26
Duck for President - Doreen Cronin,Betsy Lewin

When reading about this book on scholastic the summary they gave was, "When Duck gets tired of working for Farmer Brown, his political ambition eventually leads to his being elected President.

My fellow Americans:

It is our pleasure, our honor, our duty as citizens to present to you Duck for President. Here is a duck who began in a humble pond. Who worked his way to farmer. To governor. And now, perhaps, to the highest office in the land.

Some say, if he walks like a duck and talks like a duck, he is a duck.

We say, if he walks like a duck and talks like a duck, he will be the next president of the United States of America.

Thank you for your vote". I have never read this book, but I have heard some wonderful things about it even more so recently with the election. I would use this book in a 2nd-3rd grade classroom to teach students about presidents and voting. This would be great to read during the election or even during social studies as well. I also think a mock election would be a great activity to do as a class after reading.

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review 2016-11-08 17:23
E Is for Election Day - Gloria M. Gavris,Shawn Mccann

This a great book that teaches children about different political terms through each letter of the alphabet. This would be a great story to read to students during the election season. This could be a way to introduce to them the election process and allow them to have something to vote on, whether classroom or school wide.

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review 2016-11-08 17:23
E Is for Election Day - Gloria M. Gavris,Shawn Mccann

This a great book that teaches children about different political terms through each letter of the alphabet. This would be a great story to read to students during the election season. This could be a way to introduce to them the election process and allow them to have something to vote on, whether classroom or school wide.

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