A lively, opinionated examination of the instructive role of the loser in presidential races.
Former political columnist and campaign manager Farris looks at men (the frontrunners have so far all been men) who have been instrumental in American politics, for better or worse. These include the masterly legislator Henry Clay, who ran and lost three times against Jacksonian “tyranny” but whose “American System” embraced an active, liberal government role that helped redefine the Democratic Party to become, nominally in turn, the Whigs and then the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, and Vice President Al Gore, whose media savvy in spreading the message of global warming was not unlike William Jennings Bryan’s manipulation of the media in disseminating his liberal Christian message. Farris considers chronologically the role of Stephen Douglas in helping keep the Union together by throwing his support behind Lincoln despite the bitter loss of the 1860 election, and thus ensuring his party would have a viable future after the war. Thomas E. Dewey, conceding to FDR in 1944, then Harry Truman in 1948, helped reconcile the Republican Party with the New Deal, an important lesson ignored by Barry Goldwater in his losing campaign against Lyndon Johnson in 1964, when Goldwater starkly delineated the Conservative movement, gaining the white Democratic South but losing blacks and minorities. Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern and Ross Perot all earn riveting, sympathetic treatments, and in a thoroughgoing appendix, Farris includes other important figures such as Hubert Humphrey and Wendell Willkie.
A most useful aide-mémoire for situating the upcoming presidential slugfest.