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The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party Hardcover – September 18, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (September 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700615466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700615469
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,772,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Miroff (Icons of Democracy: American Leaders as Heroes, Aristocrats, Dissenters, and Democrats), a political science professor at SUNY-Albany, deconstructs the few successes and many failures of McGovern's Democratic insurgency. Miroff names several factors underlying the magnitude of his defeat by Richard Nixon (McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia), among them organized labor's desertion, orchestrated by AFL-CIO president George Meany, an old school anticommunist at odds with McGovern's anti–Vietnam War stance; the failure of mainstream Democratic regulars to embrace McGovern; McGovern's so-called Jewish problem based on fears that he was not sufficiently pro-Israel; and the charge—instigated by the Nixon campaign and perpetuated by the media—that McGovern was too radical. Miroff notes that the 1972 campaign presaged a number of political trends, some good, some bad. On the positive side, the campaign showed the power of grassroots politics; on the negative side was an identity crisis in the Democratic Party, caught between liberal ideals and political pragmatism. Thorough, well sourced (the author was able to interview McGovern) and well written as it is, this will be primarily of interest to '60s survivors and political junkies. 21 photos. (Sept. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A deeply perceptive and stunningly fresh narrative of a major turning point in U.S. political history. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand both the promise and the pitfalls awaiting Democrats who stand up for their principles." Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan "Brings to life the excitement and furor of a time when Americans were as divided over Vietnam as they are over Iraq today." James MacGregor Burns, author of Leadership and Running Alone "An elegant reassessment that is at once broadly sympathetic and analytically candid." Stephen Skowronek, author of The Politics Presidents Make"

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Karl G. Trautman on January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed The Liberals' Moment tremendously. The book is well-organized, clear, and most importantly, relevant to today's politics. It is relevant because it lays clear the central dilemma of the modern Democratic Party today: How do national Democratic candidates connect with the ideological passion of the party grassroots while still winning a majority in a general election?

Miroff's first part of the book describes the actual 1972 campaign. The earlier 1968 Democratic presidential nomination campaign is briefly described. That contest situated George McGovern alongside Bobby Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy and others as the party tries to pick up the pieces after LBJ declines to seek re-election. The book moves into the jockeying in the years before the 1972 campaign and describes the strategy and tactics of the campaign. In this, Miroff introduces us to McGovern's biography and the issues he cares most about.

Two chapters are titled "The Left-Center Strategy" and "A Downward Arc." These describe the blueprints behind his 1972 campaign strategy and the successes and failures of it for both the primary and general election campaigns. The chapters also describe the chaotic Miami Beach Convention, the Eagleton affair and the principal architects and practitioners of the strategy and tactics of the campaign.

A critical theme that is described is the intense campaign against McGovern by fellow Democrats that lasted into the convention itself. The attempt by Humphrey to reclaim his throne and the hostility of labor leaders all forced the campaign to fight a prolonged two-front war. The campaign was distracted from focusing on in Nixon until very late. In one sense, this made victory almost impossible in November 1972.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on December 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bruce Miroff's "The Liberals' Moment" is an in-depth look at the McGovern presidential campaign of 1972 and its aftermath. It's a reminder of that era when the decade of the 1960s was quickly running out of time, in a sense, largely ending with McGovern's colossal defeat and the impending Watergate crisis. Miroff makes no apologies for the campaign and sees it in a broader light than just the run of the last true liberal for president on a major party ticket.

The author covers so many angles...all with clarity. Yes, it was a race about the war in Vietnam and ideology, and it was prompted in large part by grassroots from young people. But it was also a campaign that had an ugly flip has largely forgotten the damage that Hubert Humphrey did to McGovern in the run-up to the Democratic convention in Miami Beach and the loss of "traditional" workers and ethnic voters. But the campaign, itself, from the Eagleton affair to the "demogrant", right up to Election Day.....we all knew McGovern would lose but for those of us who voted for him (it was my first presidential vote cast as a nineteen-year-old) this was as passionate as campaigns get. And quite rightly, as Miroff points out, that holds true for many of us today.

The legacy of the McGovern campaign is covered well and Miroff balances things to a tee. He's also good at telling us what happened to all those people who were "high-ups" working for McGovern. It's fascinating when he compares McGovern to other candidates who ran in succeeding years for the presidency and how they never had a clear and succinct message. Unfortunately, we're seeing some of those same things appear in the presidential race in 2008.

Finally, Miroff has a few kind words about George McGovern, himself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara D. Drinkwater on September 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having been a McGovern delegate to the l972 convention, I read this book with rapt attention. While we were in the maelstrom, it was hard to see what was really happening, but this book puts perspective on the time. I now understand why the delegates from Alabama came up to me (from NY) and said, "Why are you destroying the Democratic party?" We weren't. We were coaching it.
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