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Many of the changes that the country experienced in 1896 match those of today: A rising immigrant population made traditional white Protestants a shrinking share of the electorate, an economic upheaval led to rising inequality, and there was little common ground between the two parties. McKinley's campaign found answers to many of these challenges, which is why it is so relevant to what ails our politics now.
A talented politician and reserved Ohioan, McKinley (called "The Major") changed the arc of American history by running the first truly modern presidential campaign. Knowing he didn't stand a chance with the GOP's traditional base of supporters, he did the unthinkable and reached out to diverse ethnic groups, including openly seeking the endorsement of Catholic Church leaders. Running on the slogan "The Man Against the Bosses", McKinley also took on the moneymen who controlled the party by doling out favors. He even deployed what we would consider modern tactics, including microtargeting voters with the use of the latest technology. Above all, he offered bold and controversial answers to the nation's most pressing challenge: how to make a new, more global economy work for everyone. And although he alienated factions within his party and longtime allies, he won the White House.
The 1896 election is a compelling drama in its own right, but McKinley's brilliant strategies offer important and powerful lessons for both political parties today.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By H. Brown on 02-27-16
Understand Modern Presidential Campaigns
Would you listen to The Triumph of William McKinley again? Why?
Yes. This book will reward a second reading since there is a lot of new background information about 19th Century politics that explains how McKinley was elected President.
What other book might you compare The Triumph of William McKinley to and why?
Any book from the "Making of a President" series.
What three words best describe Karl Rove’s performance?
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Any additional comments?
Readers who bring a contrary opinion about Rove to the reading of this book will not enjoy this book. I say lighten up! Rove understands how elections work and how to get a candidate elected to the highest state or national office. This book is written by one of the leading political campaign strategists today (the equal on the Democratic side is David Axelrod). Rove is not manipulating the reader; he is providing a reasonably objective account of McKinley the man, the politician and his campaigns for public office up to and including his Presidential campaign. The book is an account of how McKinley rose to the Presidency by examining the strategy of his successive campaigns. It provides a pretty good account of the competing 1896 campaigns, and explains why McKinley won. Most historians agree with Rove's conclusions about the campaign, but they cannot hope to write an account from the point of view of someone like Rove, who has actually successfully managed Presidential campaigns. Rove also explains why modern political campaigns are the active, aggressive, personal campaigns we are seeing today.
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