A British historian fascinated with the American South examines the changes in the region through the political career of Albert Gore Sr. (1907-1998).
Badger (American History/Northumbria Univ.; FDR: The First Hundred Days, 2008, etc.) offers a great deal of information about the U.S. senator from Tennessee—and father of former vice president Al Gore Jr.—but this book is not primarily a biography. Understanding what the author hopes to accomplish requires understanding that the book is part of the publisher’s series called Politics and Culture in Modern America. The mission statement of that series includes the desire to “reverse the fragmentation of modern U.S. history” regarding a variety of issues, including the role of government; racial, gender, and labor controversies; and widespread social movements. In that context, Badger succeeds admirably. As a Tennessee House member and then senator, Gore sought to modernize the Deep South by building interstate highways, encouraging the use of higher-tech agricultural equipment and strategies, and supporting the Tennessee Valley Authority’s distribution of electricity. Regarding racial segregation, Gore represented progress, albeit uncomfortable and slow progress. Knowing the nation needed the participation of black voters, Gore advocated from a distance while hoping to retain the votes of avid segregationists throughout Tennessee. On other matters, he openly defied constituents by opposing American involvement in the Vietnam War and insisting on the constitutional separation of church and state. Gore also demonstrated political courage by sometimes opposing the policies of fellow Southerner and Senate colleague Lyndon Johnson, especially after Johnson became president. Gore’s refusal to surrender his semi-maverick status led to his defeat in 1970 to a Republican candidate who supported a return to open segregation. In an epilogue, Badger comments on Gore’s post-Senate career in multinational business and law practice as well as his work campaigning for his son.
An interesting study filled with useful historical context.