cover image Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party

Camelot’s End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party

Jon Ward. Twelve, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4555-9138-1

In his captivating debut political history, journalist Ward dissects the 1980 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, when Sen. Ted Kennedy, in an unprecedented move, challenged the embattled incumbent president, Jimmy Carter. Ward gives quick parallel accounts of both men’s early lives, showcasing differences and similarities (“As with Carter, there were deep ties to family pulling Teddy toward a destiny he did not fully control”). Then Ward dives deep into Carter’s first term, including Iran’s capture of U.S. embassy hostages, and Kennedy’s campaign, including an entire chapter devoted to a disastrous interview in which Kennedy struggled to articulate his motivation for running and rekindled public concerns about his involvement in the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne. The book moves at a steady clip, but not by sacrificing scholarship—Ward draws on journalism of the day, previous biographies, histories, memoirs, and new interviews with some of the players. He engages fully with the complexities and contradictions of both men, including a depiction of Carter as “a man whose toothy grin masked a determined and competitive politician” with a mean streak that may surprise readers only familiar with the nonagenarian Habitat for Humanity volunteer. Ward’s recounting of the seesaw of public opinion in 1980 makes for enthralling reading. Agent: Bridget Wagner Matzie, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. (Jan.)