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THE CAMPAIGN OF THE CENTURY: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics [Kindle Edition]

Greg Mitchell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

--- WINNER OF THE GOLDSMITH BOOK PRIZE, now in an e-book edition for the first time, and also in a new print edition.

--"A compelling account"-- Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, September 2012.

In 1934, voters hoping to turn the tide of the Great Depression backed an unlikely candidate for governor of California: Upton Sinclair, muckraking author of "The Jungle" and lifelong socialist. Amazingly, Sinclair swept the Democratic primary, leading a mass movement called EPIC (End Poverty in California). More than a thousand EPIC chapters formed, much like Occupy Wall Street sites popped up in 2011.

Alarmed, Sinclair’s opponents launched an unprecedented public relations blitzkrieg to discredit him. The result was nothing less than a revolution in American politics, and with it, the era of the “spin doctor” was born. The iconic Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg created the first "attack ads" for the screen, the precursor of today's TV travesties. Hollywood took its first all-out plunge into politics and money started to play the tune in our political process.

In a riveting, blow-by-blow narrative featuring the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Louis B. Mayer, H. L. Mencken, William Randolph Hearst, Will Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, and a Who's Who of political, literary and entertainment stars, Greg Mitchell brings to life the outrageous campaign that forever transformed the electoral process.

A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, it served as the basis for one episode in the award-winning PBS documentary "The Great Depression"

“Sizzling, rambunctiously useful.” —Los Angeles Times

“Fascinating….a lively, anecdote-filled history.” —The New York Times Book Review

“To read The Campaign of the Century is to understand how the business of electing officials began to get so colossally out of hand.” —Newsweek

“America witnessed a transforming experience, as Greg Mitchell makes clear
in his vivid chronicle.” —Wall Street Journal

“There are lessons to be learned herein. Politicians learned them long ago, to the general detriment. Perhaps now Mitchell can help the rest of us learn them.” —Washington Post Book World

About the Author

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books including "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady," "So Wrong for So Long" (on the media and the Iraq war) and, with Robert Jay Lifton, "Hiroshima in America." He is the former editor of Editor & Publisher magazine and now writes a popular daily blog for The Nation. His recent e-books include "Atomic Cover-up," "The Age of WikiLeaks" and "Bradley Manning.'

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A colorful account of California's 1934 gubernatorial race, a forerunner of today's high-decibel, high-tech electioneering. Upton Sinclair, author of the meat-packing expos‚ The Jungle and a prominent Socialist who became a Democrat only a year before the general election, electrified millions with his EPIC (End Poverty in California) movement--and at the same time alarmed, in Mitchell's words, ``an array of powerful enemies almost unparalleled in American politics,'' including William Randolph Hearst, Herbert Hoover, and film-mogul L.B. Mayer. Mitchell (Truth...and Consequences, 1981) follows the nine-week campaign almost day by day, from the morning after Sinclair's astonishing primary victory to his November defeat at the hands of the lackluster, reactionary GOP incumbent, Frank Merriam. In between, California became a laboratory for the modern negative mass-media campaign, as Sinclair's enemies wedded some tried-and-true tactics (slush funds, dirty tricks, voter intimidation, biased reporting by nearly all of the state's 700 newspapers) to some disturbingly effective new ones: a campaign consultant to manage a gubernatorial contest, polling, a direct-mail operation, even newsreels (precursors of TV commercials) that attacked Sinclair. For a history as epic as the campaign that inspired it, Mitchell has found additional dash and drama in a wealth of primary source materials, contemporary newspaper accounts, and interviews, unfolding the campaign through the eyes of dozens of politicians, entertainers, and other public figures, including FDR, Charlie Chaplin, Melvin Belli, Pat Brown, James Cagney, and H.L. Mencken. An entertaining chronicle of the consummation of the unholy alliance of Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and politics. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


"To read Campaign of the Century is to understand how the business of electing officials began to get so colossally out of hand."--Newsweek

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1199 KB
  • Print Length: 686 pages
  • Publisher: Townsend Books (December 5, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006IYBXL2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,222 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Blitz of the Soundbite Era January 17, 2002
Greg Mitchell provides an absorbing account of one of America's most fascinating gubernatorial campaigns, the titantic 1934 California struggle between famed novelist and muckraker Upton Sinclair, who exposed the Chicago meatpacking business in his epic work, "The Jungle," and Lieutenant Governor Frank Merriam, hand-picked candidate of the powerful monied interests who kept their candidate carefully under wraps in a manner reminiscent of the later candidaces of Californian Ronald Reagan and Texan George Bush the Younger.
The race is fascinating in a current context for being the first instance where the ferocious impact of corporate public relations spin control dominated. A smear was launched against Sinclair based on his socialist roots. What was termed socialist in those days, as evidenced later by perennial Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas, was a strong desire for regulation, better working conditions, and greater security for the citizenry in the retirement and medical care areas. While Sinclair, due to his Socialist background and controversy over his End Poverty in California program, failed to receive the endorsement as Democratic Party nominee from an apprehensive Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he obtained financial assistance from wealthy Los Angeles socialist property magnate Gaylord Wilshire and many grassroots volunteers seeking security and justice during the ravages of the Great Depression.
Louis B. Mayer, William Randolph Hearst and other powerful monied interests fought hard to prevent Sinclair from winning, or having his platform properly debated.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless, amazing writing!!! BUY THIS BOOK!! September 17, 1998
This book is a (literally) day by day account of the 1934 campaign for California governor. Amazingly, Mitchell's political oreientation is completely invisible (and I had my radar on)! The result is a wonderfully exciting, novel-like political history (divided into nuggets for those of us with short attention spans). Perhaps Sinclair is presented as too much of an idealist, but the alternative may have made the tone more of a polemic. I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you like politics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important part of California and American history January 29, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Fascinating history. We could use an Upton Sinclair and an EPIC campaign today! Greg Mitchell has written an accessible history that resonates today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A little-known part of our political history. November 14, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Amazing book. Think what our nation would be like if he'd won. There's more support than ever for the ideas Sinclair pushed. If only...
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