Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party Hardcover – September 18, 2007
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
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
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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.
However on the positive side, the joy of grass-roots politics comes across well. The strong showing in New Hampshire and his win in Wisconsin remind readers about the importance, and power, of idealism in American politics.
The second part of the book is about the campaign's meaning. Among other topics, Miroff delves into how "radical" the campaign was. In one sense, it was radical because McGovern directly criticized the Vietnam War. The war was immoral (at least to McGovern). This kind of truth is radical.
However there was also an image of radicalism that was painted by his opponents. Feminists, gays and lesbians and African-Americans found a visible place in the campaign. Their inclusion as a core, and noticeable, component of his campaign were an easy target in the culture war that was developing.
The complicated relationships between important interest groups and the McGovern campaign are also described. The tension between electoral campaigns and identity politics is analyzed well: McGovern's campaign staff wanted to win while some interest groups seemed like they were more interested in representation and recognition. There is also description of the attack politics of the Nixon campaign. As Miroff states, "The master's campaign against McGovern became a seminal text for attack politics. It taught his Republican successors how to neutralize or co-opt issues normally belonging to liberals. It instructed them on how to play the cards of race, religion and class to divide the Democrats and pull together a Republican electoral majority." (p. 244)
The last section of the book is over the party's identity. The post-mortems of the campaign are described. Why did McGovern lose so badly? Conservative Democrats viewed the loss as resulting primarily from ideology. Or was the loss caused by McGovern's personality or his handling of the Eagleton affair? It is here where Miroff has identified the ghost that keeps haunting the Democratic Party. It seems that the national media, pundits, consultants, and Democratic presidential candidates can't seem to get over this loss. Once "McGovern" is mentioned, Democrats and liberals seem to reflexively pull back from their convictions, become hesitant and doubtful and cede the power of political passion to Republicans.
Miroff concludes with a chapter on some of the key people that worked in the McGovern campaign: Bob Shrum, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton (and his supporters) among others. Following these careers is instructive in understanding where the party is today. He also describes how McGovern has remained faithful to his liberal ideology since his 1972 campaign.
In his epilogue, Miroff is clear on what he thinks the party should do: "An essential step in resolving the identity crisis of the Democratic Party is to recover what Democrats believe, their core-and liberal-convictions, and to refuse to conceal them any longer. Equally essential is the honesty to work through the traumas of liberal defeat, particularly 1972, and to learn from liberal failings." (p. 304-5)
If "the traumas of liberal defeat" are explored more honestly by Democrats and liberals, there might be some uncomfortable questions that become more visible. In particular, how does the party create an ideological model that can win the presidency while still remain true to the strong anti-war feelings of the party's grassroots? This is where Vietnam is connected to Iraq; 1972 to 2008.
The Liberals' Moment is excellent political history. It is also a work of political analysis which is precise and pertinent to today.