Party of the People by Jules Witcover
A History of the Democrats

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After more than two centuries of sometimes stormy, always intriguing history, the Democratic Party of the United States survives as the oldest political organization in the world. In Party of the People, veteran political chronicler Jules Witcover traces the Democratic Party’s evolution, from its roots in the agrarian, individualistic concepts of Thomas Jefferson to its emergence as today’s progressive party of social change and economic justice. Witcover describes the Democrats' dramatic struggle to deÞne themselves and shares with us half a century of personal observation of the party through its most turbulent times.

First called, oddly enough, the Republican Party but later known as the Democratic-Republican Party and eventually the Democratic Party, this creature of Jefferson and James Madison evolved from an early ideological and personal struggle with the commerce-minded Alexander Hamilton. Seasoned by the populism of Andrew Jackson, the party was nearly undone by the “peculiar institution” of slavery in the South, which led to the birth of the rival Republican Party and to the Civil War. Half a century later, America emerged from World War I under Democrat Woodrow Wilson as a reluctant international player, and from World War II under Franklin Roosevelt as a liberal bastion and global superpower.
In the civil rights revolution, the party shed much of its racist past, but subsequent white middle-class resentments and the divisive Vietnam War opened the door to a rival conservatism that effectively demon-ized Democratic liberalism. Defensively, the party under Bill Clinton sought safer centrist ground and seemed on the brink of establishing a “third way," until the disastrous 2000 electoral college defeat of Al Gore left the Democrats shaken and splintered. As the new century emerges, they are debating whether to return to their liberal roots, setting themselves clearly apart from the Republicans, or press on with the centrist pursuit of a broader, less liberal constituency.

In Party of the People (a perfect companion to Grand Old Party by Lewis L. Gould, a history of the Republicans published simultaneously by Random House), Jules Witcover offers a rich and comprehensive popular history of the ideas, struggles, and key Þgures that have deÞned the Democratic Party over the past two hundred years and are now

About Jules Witcover

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Jules Witcover has covered American politics, and the Democratic Party, for more than half a century as a reporter, syndicated columnist, and author. He has written ten books on politics and history, including a novel, and is coauthor of Þve other political books. Witcover has also attended every Democratic National Convention since 1964, when the party nominated Lyndon B. Johnson in Atlantic City. After writing 85 Days, the deÞnitive account of the last campaign of Robert Kennedy in 1968, he chronicled every presidential campaign from 1976 to 1992 and then offered a seething critique of the process in 1999 in No Way to Pick a President. A recipient of the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Washington correspondents, Witcover has written on national politics for the Newhouse Newspapers, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Washington Star, and since 1981 he has been a political columnist for the Baltimore Sun. He lives with his wife, Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, in Washington.
Published November 4, 2003 by Random House. 848 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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And so on to the present, where the Democratic Party, as two hundred years ago, represents an uneasy alliance, with some, Witcover writes in conclusion, arguing that it should “return to its roots,” others that it eschew “the old confrontational class warfare in favor of a new, enlightened and pr...

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Good God, has it come to this?'' In 1894 Ben Tillman, a Democrat from South Carolina, called President Grover Cleveland, the leader of his own party, ''an old bag of beef,'' adding ''I am going to Washington with a pitchfork and prod him in his old fat ribs.'' William Jennings Bryan, the Nebraska...

Nov 19 2003 | Read Full Review of Party of the People: A Histor...

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