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03 February 2011 @ 03:53 pm
The Last Campaign by Zachary Karabell  
I just finished reading The Last Campaign by Zachary Karabell, a book about how Harry Truman won the 1948 US Presidential election, even after all the polls and media predicted his defeat. The book isn't for everyone, but if you're a history buff, this is an excellent read. Following is a review of the book that I wrote on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca :

Harry Truman was the last of his kind, Thomas Dewey was ahead of his time. Truman gave 'em hell, lambasting his opponents with vitriol and vinegar. Dewey took the high road and ran a gentlemanly campaign. The public grew to like Truman's plain speech, and came to see Dewey as too pristine, as someone who people were never sure of what he was all about. Truman was made to press the flesh at a time when television was about to make that kind of campaigning obsolete. Dewey was the perfect candidate for television, polished and attractive, at a time before there was a tv set in every living room.

Author Zachary Karabell writes an intelligent, informative and very readable account of how Harry Truman snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. When victory looked impossible for Truman, his base being gnawed at from the left and from the right by two strong third party candidates, and when every media outlet had declared victory for Dewey long before a single vote was cast, Karabell tells us how Truman whistled past his political graveyard and followed a strategy designed to attract blue collar labor support in the cities as well as rural agricultural votes, and how he managed to hang on to most of the left as well as a good portion of the south. Karabell clearly explains how Truman had a plan and how he struck to it, never wavering.

The book also tells us much about the other candidates: Dewey the gentleman farmer, former crime buster and mama's boy too closely allied with the elites in the east; Henry Wallace, the leftist who wasn't afraid of being labelled as a communist, a label that stuck to him and kept his campaign from getting off the ground; and Strom Thurmond, the wiley southern governor with an eye for beauty queens and for self-promotion.

This book has its share of humorous anecdotes. Karabell's description of an unfortunate incident at the Democratic Convention involving pigeons trapped in a floral display in a hot convention hall is worth the price of the book alone. But the real genius is Karabell explaining how all of Truman's strategies would backfire on him in his next term, as well as the pitfalls of 1948 style polling methods.

This book is nothing short of brilliant, time spent reading it is time well spent.

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Keb Mo-"The Times They Are A Changing"