Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction

Gareth Davies, Julian E. Zelizer

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pp. 1-12

Mark Twain once quipped that “if we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election time.” “If voting made any difference,” he wrote elsewhere, “they wouldn’t let us do it.”1 Such sardonic reflections aside, elections are, and have always been, the lifeblood of American democracy, embodying the bedrock assumption of American political...

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1. The Devolution of 1800: Jefferson’s Election and the Birth of American Government

Jeffrey L. Pasley

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pp. 13-35

American presidential campaigns have never been known for understatement, but one of the very first ones, Thomas Jefferson’s victory over John Adams in 1800, has rarely been equaled for the epic sweep of its participants’ rhetoric: “Republicans Rejoice! Our Country is saved from . . . counter revolution—from the fangs of an usurper,” the New York...

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2. The Bombshell of 1844

Sean Wilentz

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pp. 36-58

The presidential race of 1844 does not rank among the most memorable. Nor, judged by certain conventional academic standards, was it especially important, as compared with, say, the supposedly “critical” elections of 1828 and 1860. Aficionados of political trivia know that 1844 brought the first victory by a dark horse candidate, the Democrat James K. Polk. Arguably, it was...

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3. Beyond the Realignment Synthesis: The 1860 Election Reconsidered

Adam I. P. Smith

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pp. 59-74

To the “New Political Historians” of the 1960s and 1970s, realignment theory seemed to describe the circumstances of the 1850s particularly well.1 The election of 1860 (along with those of 1828, 1896, and 1932) became a paradigmatic “critical election,” not so much, ironically, because it triggered the Civil War (which surely makes 1860 by far the most critical election in...

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4. Markets, Morality, and the Media: The Election of 1884 and the Iconography of Progressivism

Richard R. John

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pp. 75-97

The victory of Democrat Grover Cleveland over Republican James G. Blaine in the presidential election of 1884 is one of those events in U.S. history that once commanded broad attention but that has long since ceased to stir the blood. This was an epoch, after all, about which historians customarily play up the radical transformations being wrought by big business and downplay...

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5. Anglophobia in Nineteenth-Century Elections, Politics, and Diplomacy

Jay Sexton

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pp. 98-117

Bringing elections back into political history is a multifaceted project. The method pursued in most of the chapters in this volume is the investigation of important presidential elections, an approach that highlights contingent moments of political change or consolidation. This chapter, in contrast, connects elections across nearly a century by focusing on a recurring...

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6. The War and Peace Election of 1916

Elizabeth Sanders

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pp. 118-138

The American election of 1916 was remarkable for constituting the climax of the progressive era, a period of lasting and important legislative accomplishments; and it was also notable for a great emotional popular mobilization against war that reconfigured the election and delivered a popular verdict that could not be sustained. The election was a referendum both on American...

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7. Farewell to the “Smoke-Filled Room”: Parties, Interests, Public Relations, and the Election of 1924

Bruce J. Schulman

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pp. 139-152

On the face of it, the 1924 presidential campaign seems an odd candidate for a study of pivotal elections. A glance at the electoral map hardly identifies 1924 as a momentous—or even a minimally interesting—contest. The incumbent, Republican president Calvin Coolidge, posted a majority of the popular vote and an overwhelming margin in the Electoral College while his...

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8. The New Deal in 1940: Embattled or Entrenched?

Gareth Davies

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pp. 153-166

By 1940 the New Deal as active reform crusade was moribund, the victim of a variety of ailments whose cumulative impact had been to annihilate the optimism with which Franklin Roosevelt had embarked on his second term in 1937. Back then, hard on the heels of the greatest electoral victory in American history, FDR perceived a mandate not simply to build on the policy legacy...

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9. “Why Don’t You Just Get an Actor?”: The Advent of Television in the 1952 Campaign

Kevin M. Kruse

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pp. 167-183

The standard story of the 1952 presidential election is fairly straightforward: after two long decades wandering the wilderness, the Republicans that year finally discovered a formula for winning back the White House. Early in the campaign, the GOP identified the essential elements of Korea, communism, and corruption as their main themes and then combined them as the scientifically...

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10. Giving Liberalism a Window: The 1964 Election

Julian E. Zelizer

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pp. 184-195

The 1964 election had a transformative impact on American political history.1 Much of the literature on the Great Society has focused on Lyndon Johnson and how he was able to move bills as a result of his political wizardry. The Johnson-centered interpretation of the Great Society places such great emphasis on what the president was able to do—how the so-called...

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11. The 1980 Election: Victory Without Success

Meg Jacobs

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pp. 196-218

In 1980 Ronald Reagan swept the presidential election. The election, it seemed, was one of the most significant in the twentieth century—the GOP answer to 1912, 1932, 1964. Talk was in the air of a Reagan Revolution, or if not a revolution, then at least an important realignment. Gone was the New Deal; here was the New...

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12. Beyond the Water’s Edge: Foreign Policy and Electoral Politics

Andrew Preston

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pp. 219-237

It was Barry Goldwater’s crowning moment. In front of thousands of ardent supporters, the senator from Arizona and standard-bearer for an emerging grassroots conservative movement addressed the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. While Goldwater trailed the Democratic incumbent, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in virtually every national poll, he elicited...

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13. From Corn to Caviar: The Evolution of Presidential Election Communications, 1960–2000

Brian Balogh

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pp. 238-264

This chapter examines the modern communications infrastructure of presidential elections. While most scholarly attention has been riveted on the way presidents communicate to the voters, I will pay close attention to the other side of that conversation: how candidates discern the preferences of voters. The chapter traces the shift from party- and interest group–mediated...

Notes

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pp. 265-318

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List of Contributors

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pp. 319-322

Brian Balogh is the Compton Professor at the Miller Center and the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia. His most recent book is A Government out of Sight: The Mystery of National Authority in Nineteenth-Century America. Balogh is the cohost of BackStory with the American History Guys, a nationally syndicated radio show that airs on PBS stations across...

Index

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pp. 323-342

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Acknowledgments

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p. 343

The authors would like to thank the Boston University–Cambridge University–Princeton University political history conference for having hosted this event at Princeton University in June 2013. The conference where the chapters in this volume were first presented would not have been possible without the support of the Oxford University–Princeton University research fund or the...