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A Man for All Seasons
Monroe Sweetland and the Liberal Paradox
William Robbins
Oregon State University Press, 2015
The life of prominent Oregon political leader Monroe Sweetland spans the spectrum of 20th-century America. Through seven decades, Sweetland experienced the economic collapse of the Great Depression, the unparalleled violence of a nation at war, the divisiveness of Cold War politics, and the cultural and political turmoil of the Vietnam War.

Historian William G. Robbins illuminates the wrenching transformation of American political culture in A Man for All Seasons: Monroe Sweetland and the Liberal Paradox. Racial and economic inequalities motivated much of Sweetland’s civic life, including his lifelong memberships in the American Civil Liberties Committee, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban League, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the Red Cross, where Sweetland worked repatriating American prisoners of war after Japan’s surrender.

Robbins’ portrait is holistic, exploring Sweetland’s socialist beginnings, inconsistencies in his politics—especially during the Cold War—and his regional legacy. He was the most important person in the resurgence of the modern, liberal Oregon Democratic Party from the late 1940s to the 1960s.  He joined the National Education Association in 1964 and became the driving force behind the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 and the fight for the age-18 vote, achieved in the ratification of the 26th amendment in 1971. Monroe Sweetland was a nationally prominent figure, whose fights bequeathed to modern America important legislation that shaped its political landscape.
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The Man from Clear Lake
Earth Day Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson
Bill Christofferson
University of Wisconsin Press, 2009
On Earth Day 1970 twenty million Americans displayed their commitment to a clean environment. It was called the largest demonstration in human history, and it permanently changed the nation’s political agenda. More than 1 billion people now participate in annual Earth Day activities.
    The seemingly simple idea—a day set aside to focus on protecting our natural environment—was the brainchild of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. It accomplished, far beyond his expectations, his lifelong goal of putting the environment onto the nation’s and the world’s political agendas.
    The life of Nelson, a small-town boy who learned his values and progressive political principles at an early age, is woven through the political history of the twentieth century. Nelson’s story intersects at times with Fighting Bob La Follette, Joe McCarthy, and Bill Proxmire in Wisconsin, and with George McGovern, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Russell Long, Walter Mondale, John F. Kennedy, and others on the national scene.
 
Winner, Elizabeth A. Steinberg Prize, University of Wisconsin Press
 
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Mayor Harold Washington
Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago
Roger Biles
University of Illinois Press, 2020
In 1983, Harold Washington made history by becoming Chicago's first African American mayor. The racially charged campaign and election heralded an era of bitter political divisiveness that obstructed his efforts to change city government.

Roger Biles's sweeping biography provides a definitive account of Washington and his journey. Once in City Hall, Washington confronted the backroom deals, aldermanic thuggery, open corruption, and palm greasing that fueled the Chicago machine's autocratic political regime. His alternative: a vision of fairness, transparency, neighborhood empowerment, and balanced economic growth at one with his emergence as a dynamic champion for African American uplift and a crusader for progressive causes. Biles charts the countless infamies of the Council Wars era and Washington's own growth through his winning of a second term--a promise of lasting reform left unfulfilled when the mayor died in 1987.

Original and authoritative, Mayor Harold Washington redefines a pivotal era in Chicago's modern history.
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Me, Governor?
My Life in the Rough-and-Tumble World of New Jersey Politics
Richard J. Codey
Rutgers University Press, 2011
And so, a new chapter in the life of Richard J. Codey, an undertaker's son born and bred in the Garden State, began on the night of August 12, 2004--he knew from that point his life would never be the same . . . and it hasn't been. His memoir is a breezy, humorous, perceptive, and candid chronicle of local and state government from a man who lived among political movers and shakers for more than three decades. Codey became governor of New Jersey, succeeding James McGreevey, who resigned following a homosexual affair--a shattering scandal and set of circumstances that were bizarre, even for the home state of the Sopranos. At once a political autobiography, filled with lively, incisive anecdotes that record how Codey restored respectability and set a record for good politics and good government in a state so often tarnished, this is also the story about a man and his family.
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Millicent Fenwick
Her Way
Schapiro, Amy
Rutgers University Press, 2003

Amy Schapiro has written the first biography of Millicent Fenwick, the popular and colorful New Jersey congresswoman. Affectionately remembered as the pipe-smoking grandmother who served as the model for Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury character Lacey Davenport, Fenwick defied such simplistic expectations to become, in the words of Walter Cronkite, “the conscience of Congress.” 

Born in 1910 into comfortable circumstances, Fenwick faced tragedy at an early age when her mother was lost in the sinking of the Lusitania. Following an upper-class childhood and a failed marriage, she began a fourteen-year career at Vogue magazine.

In the 1960s, Fenwick became involved in the civil rights movement and took part in local and state politics in New Jersey. Blessed with striking good looks and a sharp wit, she cut a glamorous figure, rising quickly through the ranks of the state Republican Party at a time when most of her peers were retiring. When this colorful, outspoken figure—one of only five New Jersey women ever elected to Congress— went to Washington in 1974 at age sixty-four, her victory was portrayed by the media as a “geriatric triumph.”

Schapiro’s extensive interviews with Fenwick’s son, Hugh, who granted her exclusive rights to Fenwick’s personal papers, oral histories, letters, and photographs, provide rare insight into the life and career of one of America’s most memorable politicians.

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Misconceiving Mothers
Legislators, Prosecutors, and the Politics of Prenatal Drug Exposure
Laura Gomez
Temple University Press, 1997
A tiny African-American baby lies in a hospital incubator, tubes protruding from his nostrils, head, and limbs. "He couldn't take the hit," the caption warns. "If you're pregnant, don't take drugs." Ten years earlier, this billboard would have been largely unintelligible to many of us. But when it appeared in 1991, it immediately conjured up several powerful images: the helpless infant himself; his unseen environment, a newborn intensive care unit filled with babies crying inconsolably; and the mother who did this -- crack-addicted and unrepentant.

Misconceiving Mothers is a case study of how public policy about reproduction and crime is made. Laura E. Gomez uses secondary research and first-hand interviews with legislators and prosecutors to examine attitudes toward the criminalization and/or medicalization of drug use during pregnancy by the legislature and criminal justice systems in California. She traces how an initial tendency toward criminalization gave way to a trend toward seeing the problem of "crack babies" as an issue of social welfare and public health.

It  is no surprise that in an atmosphere of mother-blaming, particularly targeted at poor women and women of color, "crack babies" so easily captured the American popular imagination in the late 1980s. What is surprising is the was prenatal drug exposure came to be institutionalized in the state apparatus. Gomez attributes this circumstance to four interrelated cause: the gendered nature of the social problem; the recasting of the problem as fundamentally "medical" rather than "criminal"; the dynamic nature of t he process of institutionalization; and the specific feature of the legal institutions -- that is, the legislature and prosecutors' offices -- the became prominent in the case.

At one level Misconceiving Mothers tells the story of a particular problem at a particular time and place -- how the California legislature and district attorneys grappled with pregnant women's  drug use in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At another level, the book tells a more general story about the political nature of contemporary social problems. The story it tells is political not just because it deals with the character of political institutions but because the process itself and the nature of the claims-making concern the power to control the allocation of state resources.

A number of studies have looked at how the initial criminalization of social problems takes place. Misconceiving Mothers looks at the process by which a criminalized social problem is institutionalized through the attitudes and policies of elite decision-makers.
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Mo
The Life and Times of Morris K. Udall
Donald W. Carson and James W. Johnson
University of Arizona Press, 2001
Everybody liked Mo. Throughout his political life— and especially during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976— thousands of people were drawn to Arizona congressman Morris K. Udall by his humor, humanity, and courage. This biography traces the remarkable career of the candidate who was "too funny to be president" and introduces readers to Mo the politician, Mo the environmentalist, and Mo the man. Journalists Donald Carson and James Johnson interviewed more than one hundred of Udall's associates and family members to create an unusually rich portrait. They recall Udall's Mormon boyhood in Arizona when he lost an eye at age six, his service during World War II, his brief career in professional basketball, and his work as a lawyer and county prosecutor, which earned him a reputation for fairness and openness.

Mo provides the most complete record of Udall's thirty-year congressional career ever published. It reveals how he challenged the House seniority system and turned the House Interior Committee into a powerful panel that did as much to protect the environment as any organization in the twentieth century. It shows Udall to have been a consensus builder for environmental issues who paved the way for the Alaska Lands Act of 1980, helped set aside 2.4 million acres of wilderness in Arizona, and fought for the Central Arizona Project, one of the most ambitious water projects in U.S. history. Carson and Johnson record Udall's early opposition to the Vietnam War at a time when that conflict was largely perceived as a just cause, as well as his early advocacy of campaign finance reform. They also provide a behind-the-scenes account of his run for the presidency—the first House member to seek the office in nearly a century—which gained him an intensely loyal national following.

Mo explores the paradoxes that beset Udall: He was a man able to accomplish things politically because people genuinely liked and respected him, yet he was a loner and workaholic whose focus on politics overshadowed his personal life. Carson and Johnson devote a chapter to the famous Udall sense of humor. They also look sensitively at his role as a husband and father and at his proud and stubborn bout with Parkinson's disease. Mo Udall will long be remembered for his contributions to environmental legislation, for his unflagging efforts in behalf of Arizona, and for the gentle humor with which he conducted his life. This book secures his legacy.
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More Than a Feeling
Personality, Polarization, and the Transformation of the US Congress
Adam J. Ramey, Jonathan D. Klingler, and Gary E. Hollibaugh Jr.
University of Chicago Press, 2017
Whatever you think about the widening divide between Democrats and Republicans, ideological differences do not explain why politicians from the same parties, who share the same goals and policy preferences, often argue fiercely about how best to attain them. This perplexing misalignment suggests that we are missing an important piece of the puzzle. Political scientists have increasingly drawn on the relationship between voters’ personalities and political orientation, but there has been little empirically grounded research looking at how legislators’ personalities influence their performance on Capitol Hill.
           
With More Than a Feeling, Adam J. Ramey, Jonathan D. Klingler, and Gary E. Hollibaugh, Jr. have developed an innovative framework incorporating what are known as the Big Five dimensions of personality—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—to improve our understanding of political behavior among members of Congress. To determine how strongly individuals display these traits, the authors identified correlates across a wealth of data, including speeches, campaign contributions and expenditures, committee involvement, willingness to filibuster, and even Twitter feeds. They then show how we might expect to see the influence of these traits across all aspects  of Congress members’ political behavior—from the type and quantity of legislation they sponsor and their style of communication to whether they decide to run again or seek a higher office. They also argue convincingly that the types of personalities that have come to dominate Capitol Hill in recent years may be contributing to a lot of the gridlock and frustration plaguing the American political system.
 
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Mr. Chairman
The Life and Legacy of Wilbur D. Mills
Kay Collett Goss
Parkhurst Brothers, Inc., 2012
No-holds barred bio of national budget czar (during the 1950s and 1960s), Wilbur D. Mills, who was Chairman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means for nineteen years.  Mills tutuladge of young congressman, such as George H.W. Bush (the future president #41) and detailed knowledge of the United States Tax Code, as well as his behind-the-scenes network of information and the leanings of congressional members earned him high regard in the eyes of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon.  Mills' career came to an abrupt end when he was found at the Tidal Basin with exotic dancer, Fanny Foxe.  The text describes both Mills the powerful politician and Mills' sometimes troubled personal life with clarity and in detail.
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Mr. Democrat
Jim Farley, the New Deal and the Making of Modern American Politics
Daniel Scroop
University of Michigan Press, 2006

Mr. Democrat tells the story of Jim Farley, Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign manager. As party boss, Farley experienced unprecedented success in the New Deal years. And like his modern counterpart Karl Rove, Farley enjoyed unparalleled access and power. Unlike Rove, however, Farley was instrumental in the creation of an overwhelming new majority in American politics, as the emergence of the New Deal transformed the political landscape of its time.

Mr. Democrat is timely and indispensable not just because Farley was a fascinating and unduly neglected figure, but also because an understanding of his career advances our knowledge of how and why he revolutionized the Democratic Party and American politics in the age of the New Deal.

Daniel Scroop is Lecturer in American History, University of Liverpool School of History.
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My Brother's Keeper
George McGovern and Progressive Christianity
Mark A. Lempke
University of Massachusetts Press, 2017
George McGovern is chiefly remembered for his landslide loss to Richard Nixon in 1972. Yet at the time, his candidacy raised eyebrows by invoking the prophetic tradition, an element of his legacy that is little studied. In My Brother's Keeper, Mark A. Lempke explores the influence of McGovern's evangelical childhood, Social Gospel worldview, and conscientious Methodism on a campaign that brought antiwar activism into the mainstream.

McGovern's candidacy signified a passing of the torch within Christian social justice. He initially allied with the ecumenical movement and the mainline Protestant churches during a time when these institutions worked easily with liberal statesmen. But the senator also galvanized a dynamic movement of evangelicals rooted in the New Left, who would dominate subsequent progressive religious activism as the mainline entered a period of decline. My Brother's Keeper argues for the influential, and often unwitting, role McGovern played in fomenting a "Religious Left" in 1970s America, a movement that continues to this day. It joins a growing body of scholarship that complicates the dominant narrative of that era's conservative Christianity.
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My Dearest Angel
A Virginia Family Chronicle 1895–1947
Katie Letcher Lyle
Ohio University Press, 2002

She was the daughter of a circuit judge and state senator. He was the youngest son of Virginia’s Civil War governor and was a state legislator himself at the age of nineteen. Their courtship and marriage stands as a portrait of a bygone way of life unique to the American South during the first half of the twentieth century. My Dearest Angel is their story, told through their faithful correspondence over the course of their fifty years together.

Piecing together the voluminous letters, their granddaughter, noted author Katie Letcher Lyle, has succeeded in giving us an intimate panorama of the full and oftentimes wrenching lives led by Greenlee and Katie Letcher. Domestic life, family secrets, and visiting luminaries are part of their story. But the abiding appeal of My Dearest Angel is the maturation of a lifelong relationship built on the crest of a changing world.

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