The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama [NOOK Book]


A major history of American liberalism and the key personalities behind the movement


Why is it that nearly every liberal initiative since the end of the New Deal—whether busing, urban development, affirmative action, welfare, gun control, or Roe v. Wade—has fallen victim to its grand aspirations, often exacerbating the very problem it seeks to solve? In this ...
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The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama

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A major history of American liberalism and the key personalities behind the movement


Why is it that nearly every liberal initiative since the end of the New Deal—whether busing, urban development, affirmative action, welfare, gun control, or Roe v. Wade—has fallen victim to its grand aspirations, often exacerbating the very problem it seeks to solve? In this groundbreaking work, the first full treatment of modern liberalism in the United States, bestselling journalist and historian Eric Alterman together with Kevin Mattson present a comprehensive history of this proud, yet frequently maligned tradition. In The Cause, we meet the politicians, preachers, intellectuals, artists, and activists—from Eleanor Roosevelt to Barack Obama, Adlai Stevenson to Hubert Humphrey, and Billie Holiday to Bruce Springsteen—who have battled for the heart and soul of the nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this ambitious work, journalist Alterman (Kabuki Democracy) and historian Mattson (When America Was Great) present an encyclopedic history of liberalism, a movement devoted to equality, justice, and freedom, and a powerful engine of change in the 20th century. With a huge cast ranging from political to cultural figures as diverse as Reinhold Niebuhr, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Gloria Steinem, Richard Rorty, Bruce Springsteen, and many, many more, the authors tell the tortured story of the liberal fight for social justice. Against the backdrop of the lives and works of these men and women, they undertake an exhaustive exposition of legislation, election campaigns, foreign policy decisions, theoretical books and journals, and other cultural artifacts. The liberal devotion to rationality leads to the problem of “how to inspire passion for a philosophy that itself distrust passion.” Alterman and Mattson suggest that, in our current era, liberalism has “pledged itself to rationality in a political culture in which anti-intellectualism runs rampant,” and in which the enemies of liberalism are effectively mobilizing populist fear and ignorance. Though the book loses narrative focus due to the slew of mini-biographies spliced throughout, it remains an illuminating history of postwar politics, international relations, culture, and philosophy—all in one scrupulously researched volume. Agent: Tina Bennett, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)
The Boston Globe
The New York Times Editors’ Choice

“What a relief it is, then, to read Eric Alterman’s superb new book The Cause.”

Yale Alumni Magazine
The Cause is at its best in its deft articulation of the inseparability of liberalism’s strengths and weaknesses.”
The History News Network
The Cause provides an ample arsenal of information to remind liberals that theirs is the side of virtue.”
Sullivan County Democrat
“Witty…. Simply by telling this story it reminds us that liberal has always been and remains one of the ways of being a patriotic, constructive American.”
Library Journal
So many books lately on the rise of the Right, but here, finally, is a history of postwar liberalism. Media critic, political columnist (e.g., The Nation), CUNY journalism professor, and best-selling author (e.g., Why We're Liberal), Alterman joins with Ohio University professor Mattson to define liberalism through the individuals who have shaped it over the last decades. Important for current events readers except in really red states.
Kirkus Reviews
A liberal columnist and a professor examine the zigzag route of liberal politics since the New Deal. Before the book was finished, Mattson (Contemporary History/Ohio Univ.; "What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?": Jimmy Carter, America's "Malaise," and the Speech that Should Have Changed the Country, 2009, etc.) left the partnership with the Nation contributor Alterman (Kabuki Democracy: The System vs. Barack Obama, 2011, etc.), who wrote the final draft. A chronicle of liberalism's successes and failures, the text travels the labyrinthine road from the New Deal to the rise (and fall) of unionism, the theorists of the 1940s and '50s (Dean Acheson, George Kennan), the battle against McCarthyism and the failures of Adlai Stevenson, whom Alterman writes helped create the notion of the effete intellectual. The author then charts the rise of the Kennedys, the tragic assassinations of the '60s, civil rights and Lyndon Johnson, Betty Friedan and the feminist movement, the campaign and electoral failures of Eugene McCarthy, McGovern, Carter, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. Alterman pauses often to visit relevant cultural history--the emergence of influential journals, Mailer's writing, DeVoto's criticism, Elia Kazan's films, Cheever's stories, the various liberal contributions of actor Sidney Poitier, novelist William Styron, filmmaker Oliver Stone and--in a long section--rocker Bruce Springsteen. Alterman points out continually how liberals have often been their own worst enemies--failing to stand up to the violence of the far left in the '60s, fearing being branded "anti-American" in the face of war (Iraq), failing to confront the Tea Party and the ever-more-rightward GOP. Unfortunately, Alterman too often quotes others and only rarely flashes the scimitar wit he displays in the Nation. Thorough and thoughtful, but with dense scholarly foliage that needs pruning.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101577134
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 4/12/2012
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 669,258
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman is the author of eight previous books, including the New York Times bestseller The Book on Bush and What Liberal Media? He lives in New York City.

Kevin Mattson is the Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Ohio. He lives in Athens, Ohio.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Nothing to Fear 1

1 Henry, Harry, and Eleanor: Three Faces of Liberalism 15

2 "Scare Hell" 29

3 "The Self-Righteous Delusions of Innocence" 47

4 Patient, Firm, and Vigilant 66

5 The Best Years of Our Lives 88

6 The Two Joes 110

7 Eggheads in the Wilderness 127

8 We Shall Overcome 142

9 The Liberal Hour 156

10 Master of Disaster 183

11 Paranoia Strikes Deep in the Heartland 206

12 In the Darkness at the Edge of Town 236

13 Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding 263

14 "A Government as Good as Its People" 285

15 Where's the Beef? 317

16 A Place Called "Hope" 349

17 What's the Matter with America? 384

18 Hope and Change? 416

Conclusion: "The Only Honest Place to Be" 461

Notes 475

Index 543

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 29, 2012

    This is an outstanding must read for those who want to understan

    This is an outstanding must read for those who want to understand the American political system and the development of liberal thought in the country.

    Eric Alterman, who writes for AlterNet, provides an alternative view of the New Deal, Great Society, and how these views contributed to popular thought about politics and society.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2014

    Read if you are stupid

    Due to the large idiot population in the us (liberals) this will unfortunately sell

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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