cover image True Believer: Hubert Humphrey’s Quest for a More Just America

True Believer: Hubert Humphrey’s Quest for a More Just America

James Traub. Basic, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-1-541-61957-9

Journalist Traub (What Was Liberalism?) offers an admiring biography of firebrand politician Hubert Humphrey (1911–1978). Raised in a small South Dakota community, Humphrey attended the University of Minnesota. In 1945, he became the mayor of Minneapolis, and his considerable support of the city’s oppressed Black and Jewish communities made him a national liberal figure. In 1948, his impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention led to the party’s adoption of a vigorous civil rights platform, despite the opposition of the Truman administration. That same year, Humphrey won a seat in the U.S. Senate, where he was eventually lead author of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Elected vice president in 1964, Humphrey had a fraught relationship with President Lyndon Johnson, who “wanted a servant, not a copilot.” Humphrey’s support for the war in Vietnam tarnished his progressive legacy and contributed to his 1968 presidential election defeat by Richard Nixon, according to Traub, who leaves no doubt of his affection for his subject—he describes Humphrey as not only “extraordinary” and “abundantly gifted,” but “profoundly good.” Detailed coverage of Humphrey’s career after he left the Senate makes this a valuable complement to Samuel G. Freedman’s Into the Bright Sunshine, which focused on the previous periods of the politician’s life. (Feb.)