The Carnival Campaign

  • by Ronald G. Shafer
  • Narrated by William Hughes
  • 7 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Americans have come to expect that the nation's presidential campaigns will be characterized by a carnival atmosphere emphasizing style over substance. But this fascinating account of the pivotal 1840 election reveals how the now-unavoidable traditions of big money, big rallies, shameless self-promotion, and carefully manufactured candidate images first took root in presidential politics.
Pulitzer Prize-nominated former Wall Street Journal reporter Ronald G. Shafer tells the colorful story of the election battle between sitting president Martin Van Buren, a professional Democratic politician from New York, and Whig Party upstart William Henry Harrison, a military hero who was nicknamed "Old Tippecanoe" after a battlefield where he fought and won in 1811. Shafer shows how the pivotal campaign of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" marked a series of firsts that changed presidential politicking forever: the first presidential campaign as mass entertainment, directed at middle-income and lower-income voters; the first "image campaign," in which strategists painted Harrison as an everyman living in a log cabin sipping hard cider (in fact, he was born into wealth, lived in a 22-room mansion, and drank only sweet cider); the first campaign in which a candidate, Harrison, traveled and delivered speeches directly to voters; the first one influenced by major campaign donations; the first in which women openly participated; and the first involving massive grassroots rallies, attended by tens of thousands and marked by elaborate fanfare, including bands, floats, a log cabin on wheels, and the world's tallest man.
Some of history's most fascinating figures - including Susan B. Anthony, Charles Dickens, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allan Poe, Thaddeus Stevens, and Walt Whitman - pass through this colorful story, which is essential listening for anyone interested in learning when image first came to trump ideas in presidential politics.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

More timely than the author knew

Interesting tale of the famous 1840 campaign for President. Written for the general reader, but full of insights into the origins of the modern political campaign. Mudslinging, lying, character assassination, and empty-headed avoidance of serious issues is not new in American politics. It was hard to read this without reflecting on the recent campaign and the fact that in spite of the rise of public education and the triumph of science and rational thought that our blessed democracy has not advanced beyond the 1840s in its vulnerability to hoopla, chicanery, and demagoguery. But like 1840, we will survive.
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- Steve

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-01-2016
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio