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THE CAMPAIGN OF THE CENTURY by Greg Mitchell

THE CAMPAIGN OF THE CENTURY

Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics

By Greg Mitchell

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41168-2
Publisher: Random House

 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 exposÇ 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.)