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Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents: George Washington to Barack Obama

Overview

George Washington, Abraham, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan—most would agree their presidencies were amongst the most successful in American history. But what made these very different men such effective leaders? According to presidential historian Gil Troy, these presidents succeeded not because of their bold political visions, but because of their moderation.

Although many presidential candidates claim to be moderates, the...

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Overview

George Washington, Abraham, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan—most would agree their presidencies were amongst the most successful in American history. But what made these very different men such effective leaders? According to presidential historian Gil Troy, these presidents succeeded not because of their bold political visions, but because of their moderation.

Although many presidential candidates claim to be moderates, the word cannot conceal a political climate defined by extreme rhetoric and virulent partisanship. In this book, Troy argues that this is a distinctly un-American state of affairs. The great presidents of American history have always sought a golden mean—from George Washington, who brilliantly mediated between the competing visions of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, to Abraham Lincoln, who rescued the union with his principled pragmatism, to the two Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin, who united millions of Americans with their powerful, affirmative, nationalist visions.

Moderation in politics is difficult to achieve in an age of excess—an anything-goes culture feeds an all-or-nothing politics. In the face of challenges both at home and abroad, Troy calls for a muscular moderation, a powerful affirmation of the values that united us and a commitment to a politics that builds from the center rather than playing to extremes.

As America lines up to select its next president, Gil Troy brilliantly reminds us of the finest traditions of presidential leadership from our nation's past.

First time in paperback. Originally published as Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618835
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 8/27/2012
  • Edition description: Second Edition with a new Afterword
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gil Troy, a native of Queens, New York, and professor of history at McGill University, is the author of Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons; Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s; and Hillary Rodham Clinton: Polarizing First Lady.

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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition ix

Introduction: Presidents as Muscular Moderates

A "Middle Course" for Our "Common Cause" 1

1 Washington's Way

"Liberal Allowances, Mutual Forbearances, and Temporizing Yieldings on All Sides" 19

2 Compromisers, Zealots, and Ciphers

The Blessing of Parties, the Challenge of Slavery, and the Failure of Presidents 39

3 Abraham Lincoln's Middle Measure

A Cautious Politician's "My Policy Is to Have No Policy" Pragmatism 57

4 Theodore Roosevelt's Democratic Two-Step

The Rise of the Romantic, Nationalist Presidency 75

5 Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal

The Radical as Moderate 93

6 Truman, Eisenhower, and America's Bipartisan Consensus

Building Political Unity through Cultural Conformity 123

7 John F. Kennedy Civil Rights

Moderation and the Challenge of Change 147

8 The Consensus Collapses

Lyndon Johnson and the Limits of Moderation 165

9 Learning from Losers

Where Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter Went Wrong 183

10 Ronald Reagan's Moderate Revolution

Resurrecting the Center 201

11 Bill Clinton and the Perils of Triangulation

The Need to be Muscular as Well as Moderate 223

12 George W. Bush

Imprisoned by Conviction? 247

Conclusion: Center Seeking in the Twenty-first Century

Is Political Moderation Possible in an Age of Excess? 273

Afterword: A President and a People in Search of Moderation 287

Acknowledgments 297

A Note on Sources 301

Notes 309

Index 337

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