DIVIDED THEY FELL by Ronald Radosh


The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996
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 A broad and unsurprising history of the Democratic Party's 30 years of self-defeating ideological infighting. Whether or not Bill Clinton is reelected, many pundits agree that the Democratic Party is not in the pink of health these days. Radosh (History/Adelphi Univ.; The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth, 1983, etc.) goes even further: ``The Democratic Party, ripped asunder by division and conflict, has collapsed beyond repair.'' In his view, the party's ideological underpinnings have so withered that they are now nothing more than mere knee-jerk anti-Republicanism. And its once powerful base constituencies no longer shelter happily under the party umbrella but are ``permanently at odds with each other.'' Radosh's reports of the party's death may be exaggerated, but his diagnosis of its decline is devastatingly accurate, albeit a little overfamiliar. From 1964 on, good intentions on civil rights and ending the Vietnam War slowly paved the way to the radicalization of the Democratic Party and its ``capture'' by the left through a series of skillful maneuverings. Radosh believes that Henry ``Scoop'' Jackson's 1972 run against George McGovern for the Democratic presidential nomination was the last real chance the party had to reembrace the basic values of its traditional labor-liberal coalition and reverse its decline. Paradoxically, the Democrats' shift to the left has been met by a Republican surge to the right. This has created a huge gap in the center and thus, in Radosh's view, an opportunity for a new, much needed moderate party to exploit. Radosh's analysis is not particularly fresh, but his emphasis on the shaping of power of party conventions (as in the 1964 battle over seating delegates from the Mississippi Freedom Democrats) and affiliated organizations, like Americans for Democratic Action, is unusual and persuasive. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-82810-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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