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What best defines a Democrat in the American political arena—idealistic reformer or pragmatic politician? Harry Truman adopted both roles and in so doing defined the nature of his presidency.

Truman and the Democratic Party is the first book to deal exclusively with the president’s relationship with the Democratic party and his status as party leader. Sean J. Savage addresses Truman’s twin roles of party regular and liberal reformer, examining the tension that arose from this duality and the consequences of that tension for Truman’s political career.

Truman saw the Democratic party change during his lifetime from a rural-dominated minority party often lacking a unifying agenda to an urban-dominated majority party with strong liberal policy objectives. A seasoned politician who valued party loyalty and recognized the value of political patronage, Truman was also attracted to a liberal ideology that threatened party unity by alienating southern Democrats. By the time he succeeded Franklin Roosevelt, the diversity of opinions and demands among party members led Truman to alternate between two personas: the reformer committed to liberal policy goal—civil rights, national health insurance, federal aid to education—and the party regular who sought greater harmony among fellow Democrats.

Drawing on personal interview with former Truman administration members and party officials and on archival materials—most notably papers of the Democratic National Committee at the Harry S. Truman Library—Savage has produced a fresh perspective that is both shrewd and insightful. This book offers historians and political scientists a new way of looking at the Truman administration and its impact on key public policies.

Sean J. Savage, associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College and is the author of Roosevelt, the Party Leader, for which he won the Emerging Scholar Award of the American Political Science Association.

"An excellent political study."—Daily News [Bowling Green, KY]

"Savage's concise and balanced study is a must read for students of American politics in the Truman era."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"A well-done volume. . . . Historians and political scientists alike will enjoy this book as it is excellent political party history."—Journal of American History

"Savage develops his thesis . . . more thoroughly and persuasively than anyone else."—Journal of Southern History

"Adds immensely to the growing historiography of Truman."—Library Journal

"Examines Truman’s relationship with the Democratic Party and his role as party leader, the first study that concentrates fully on these related matters."—Missouri Historical Review

"The author's decision to stress Truman's twin interests, in the party and reform, surely is correct. . . . There is much to admire in this book."—Review of Politics

"The book's major contribution is to illuminate the history of the Democratic party and, indirectly, the development of party politics generally in the middle of the twentieth century."—Congress & the Presidency

Publication Date

1997

Publisher

The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY

ISBN

9780813109411

eISBN

9780813149226

Keywords

Harry S. Truman, United States presidents, Democratic party, Democratic National Committee

Disciplines

American Politics

Truman and the Democratic Party
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