cover image What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party

What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party

Michael Kazin. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (416p) ISBN 978-0-374-20023-7

Georgetown University historian Kazin (War Against War) delivers a brisk and informative survey of the Democratic Party’s evolution from its origins in the 1820s to the present. A supporter of the party who canvassed for JFK at age 12, Kazin contends that Democrats have been most successful “when they articulated an egalitarian economic vision and advocated laws intended to fulfill it.” He details how early leaders including Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson brought together shopkeepers, slave owners, and “working-class radicals” by advocating for strict limits on federal power and appealing to “the creed of white supremacy,” and notes that the party “waver[ed] little from its racist convictions” until the 1930s, when FDR’s White House tentatively embraced an “interracial constituency” that would eventually push through groundbreaking civil rights legislation in the 1960s. Throughout, Kazin spotlights factions within the party, including Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition and today’s “multiracial millennials” led by congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Readers will also gain insight into lesser-known figures such as Tammany Hall boss “Honest” John Kelly and three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who helped push Democrats toward supporting government intervention in the economy in the 1890s. The result is an insightful introduction to the complex history of the “oldest mass party in the world.” Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Mar.)