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The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama [Kindle Edition]

Eric Alterman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
You Save: $6.01 (33%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The definitive history of American postwar liberalism, told through the lens of those who brought it to life.

Liberalism stands proudly at the center of American politics and culture. Driven by passion for social justice, tempered by respect for the difficulty of change, liberals have struggled to end economic inequality, racial discrimination, and political repression. Liberals have fueled their cause with the promise of American life and visions of national greatness, seeking to transform the White House; the halls of Congress, the courts, the worlds of entertainment, law, media, and the course of public opinion. Bestselling author, journalist, and historian Eric Alterman, together with historian Kevin Mattson, traces the history of liberal ideals through the lives and struggles of fascinating personalities. The Cause tells the remarkable story of politicians, intellectuals, visionaries, activists, and public personalities battling for the heart and soul of the nation.

The first full-scale treatment of postwar liberalism, The Cause offers an epic saga driven by stories of grand aspirations, principled ambitions, tragic flaws, and the ironies of history of the people who fought for America to live up to the highest ideals of its history.

Editorial Reviews


 “The story Alterman tells is . . . worth restating given the strenuous . . . campaign by conservatives to rewrite the entire history of liberalism. . . . Alterman works hard to correct the record.” — New York Times Book Review

“Alterman’s magnum opus… All aspects of liberalism are surveyed, from the culture of Hollywood movies to the civil rights movement to intellectual debates.… In this way, Alterman’s book stands as the definitive work on its subject.”  — San Francisco Chronicle

 “What a relief it is…to read Eric Alterman’s superb new book, THE CAUSE: The Fight for American Liberalism From Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama. [I]f your goal is to learn about, and understand, one of this country’s most potent political forces, this book belongs in your hands.”  — Boston Globe

“…an intellectual (and actual) history of liberalism that even [Lionel] Trilling would approve of…coherent and excellent….”  — Daily Beast

“…an impressive history, with profiles of leaders both famous and unfamiliar, and detailing legislative and cultural battles that highlight the advancement of the cause. Readers interested in liberal politics and sociopolitical history will most appreciate the authors’ extensive research.”  — Library Journal

“…an illuminating history of postwar politics, international relations, culture, and philosophy—all in one scrupulously researched volume.”  — Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Eric Alterman is the author of eight previous books, including the New York Times bestseller The Book on Bush and What Liberal Media? He lives in New York City.
Kevin Mattson is the Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Ohio. He lives in Athens, Ohio.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1303 KB
  • Print Length: 576 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0143121642
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006LU1PQG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,448 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Political History May 25, 2012
This book is about the rise and fall of liberalism during the 20th century, and its spurting, Clinton/Obama constrained, reemergence. This is a great book on the history of American politics. It has its bias, but a welcome breath of fresh air from Rachel Maddow and Michael Moore. My review is not necessarily defending (or critiquing) the authors' bias, but attempting to articulate it.

Alterman (with the assistance of historical "raw material" and drafting from Kevin Mattson) is very interested to document and defend the triumphs of liberalism in the last century. He is deeply concerned with how liberalism has lost it way since 1970s. To this Alterman's book is a brilliant success. It is history that will make liberals proud and carry great interest for conservatives, because not only is this book a history of the heroics of liberalism as movement, but its greatest contribution may be documenting the failures of liberalism.

According to Alterman the main feat of 20th century liberalism was not its cultural agenda, but the liberal economics that dominated policy for nearly 50 years in the 20th century (1937 - 1973). Alterman believes that current Democrats have lost touch with the economic basis of liberalism, consequently have a difficult time defending liberalism as a political and economic position.

Liberalism as a successful movement is the populism of Andrew Jackson (see Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only honest place to be July 26, 2012
This is a political history of liberalism from Roosevelt to Obama, its successes, its internal struggles, its failures, its changes and modifications, its war with a new breed of opponent-- the modern tea party influenced conservative, whose only political goal is to win regardless of the cost in human terms. Alterman's focus is always on the figures who have tried to turn liberalism into political action: Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and on its major thinkers, Richard Hofstadter and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., each in his own way and with varying degrees of success, rather than on trying to explain or justify the underlying philosophies.

Liberalism's great strength is that it is not an ideology, but that is also its greatest weakness. It's a philosophy, a way of viewing and understanding the world and taking action to make a better world for all of us. Because it is a way of understanding, it invites differences of opinions, even when those differences are destructive to the main thrust of current liberal political policies. Because it is not ideological, it "has few emotional rewards; the liberal state is not a home for its citizens; it lacks warmth and intimacy" (p. 471), whereas the catchphrases and taglines of the opposition, combined of libertarianism, jingoism, fear mongering, and distortions, racism (and in the south, romantic evocations of the "lost cause"), and other easily pushed buttons provide emotional release and a sense of tribal belonging. The emotional appeal of the opposition's ideology has created voting patterns in which voters end up voting against their own best interests.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Overview of Liberalism October 5, 2012
I can think of no book that better recounts the achievements and failures of American liberalism than this book. The authors take as their period of analysis the decades from Roosevelt's New Deal to Obama's "Yes we can." Filled with cultural markers as well as expected political changes, the book develops a picture of American liberalism that has sometimes over-reached, sometimes promised more than it could deliver, but nevertheless has changed America into a more just, equal, and compassionate nation. The authors remain gloomy for the future. With checks written by billionaires and multinational corporations to an increasingly irrational Republican Party and an increasingly pusillanimous Democratic Party, the warning of Louis Brandeis, "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can't have both," is ignored by politicians and the public alike. With humility, the authors remind us, people who consider themselves children of the Enlightenment can bring liberalism back from the state of distrust and disrespect that it now owns. But to do so, liberals must regain confidence in the ability of free men and women to build through trial and error social arrangements that are more just, equal, and free; and at the same time they must travel beyond mercenary individualism to build a more compassionate social fabric.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well thought out! Well written! June 5, 2012
By Eyesis
Alterman describes the origins of the word "liberal"(believing in freedom of thought and action) with Franklin Roosevelt and the role of liberalism in leading to the social solidarity and togetherness that has continued to shape our country. He goes on to describe the pressures that changed the meaning of the word in some arenas throughout out history, in more than one way. He does this all in a well thought out and unbiased way. A must- read for all those who really want to understand how our country works!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The rise and fall and rise of the center-left
This is a very thorough and even-handed examination of American liberialism in the "modern" era. Read more
Published 1 month ago by James Tortolano
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good insights into the problems the left has had. . .
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars History of 20th Century Liberalism
I have read a number of books this year about conservatism, including John Dean's "Conservatives without Conscience" & Corey Robin's "The Reactionary Mind:Conservatism... Read more
Published 9 months ago by crazyquiltmom
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberalism made an impact in our nation.
A wonderful history and clarification of the progressive movement. Liberalism made an impact in our nation. that is for certain.
Published 18 months ago by John R. Hawkins
1.0 out of 5 stars Pure Liberal Nonsense
It is a good look at liberalism and will once and for all, let the reader know why so many consider Liberalism a mental disorder. Read more
Published on March 27, 2013 by Denise
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book of the history of liberalism
Good review of the history and movers and shakers int he liberal movement for 8 decades. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys the history of how man's thinking has evolved.
Published on December 13, 2012 by P. O'Callaghan
3.0 out of 5 stars fight for liberalism book
mother purchased. big into political research so this was good before the elections. don't know how to fill word requirement.
Published on December 8, 2012 by ruth braden
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely
This is a great book reminds us that the struggle for progress is not easy, and that we owe many for getting us this far. Read it, and think about it.
Published on November 29, 2012 by Stephen Embry
2.0 out of 5 stars To drawn out
Very long and drawn out. It started off good but just seemed like it would never end, and its very easy to get distracted reading this book. Read more
Published on April 17, 2012 by A C
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