Realigners: Partisan Hacks, Political Visionaries, and the Struggle To Rule American Democracy

Farrar. Oct. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9780374138004. $30. POL SCI
Historian Shenk (George Washington, Univ.; Maurice Dobb: Political Economist) uses this biography to discuss the nation’s “democratic elite” and how they forged powerful coalitions of voters—majorities in eras when a single party or ideology dominated U.S. politics. From abolitionists to intellectuals to politicos, these movers and shakers shaped party strategies as well as electoral shifts. President Martin Van Buren fashioned America’s two-party system. Political kingmaker Mark Hanna inaugurated a generation of Republican ascendency until the Great Depression ushered Democrats into power for more than 40 years. African American statesmen W. E. B. Du Bois and Barack Obama, journalist Walter Lippmann, and activist Phyllis Schlafly each realigned the republic in very different ways. It is not always clear how these individuals are uniquely illustrative of his theme, but he tells their stories engagingly and ends with high hopes for the future.
VERDICT A composite biography of political influencers since 1776, this book will deepen readers’ understanding of the American democratic process.
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