The Triumph of William McKinley

The Triumph of William McKinley

Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters

Book - 2015 | First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
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From New York Times bestselling author and political mastermind Karl Rove comes a fresh look at President William McKinley, whose 1896 campaign ended a bitter period of political gridlock and reformed and modernized his party, thereby creating a governing majority that dominated American politics for the next thirty-six years.

The 1896 political environment resembles that of today: A rapidly changing electorate affected by a growing immigrant population, an uncertain economy disrupted by new technologies, growing income inequality, and contentious issues the two parties could not resolve. McKinley found ways to address these challenges and win, which is why his campaign is so relevant to our politics now.

McKinley, a Civil War hero who preferred "The Major" above any other title he was given, changed the arc of American history by running the first truly modern presidential campaign. Knowing his party could only win if it grew beyond its base, he reached out to diverse ethnic groups, including openly seeking the endorsement of Catholic leaders and advocating for black voting rights. Running on the slogan "The People Against the Bosses," McKinley also took on the machine men who dominated his own party. He deployed campaign tactics still used today, including targeting voters with the best available technology. Above all, he offered bold, controversial answers to the nation's most pressing challenge--how to make a new, more global economy work for every American--and although this split his own party, he won the White House by sticking to his principles, defeating a charismatic champion of economic populism, William Jennings Bryan.

The 1896 election is a compelling drama in its own right, but McKinley's strategies offer important lessons for both political parties today.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476752952
Branch Call Number: 324.97388 Rov
Characteristics: viii, 482 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Apr 02, 2019

Rove has written a thoroughly researched analysis of the 1896 presidential campaign of William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. In an era before radio, tv, and social media, politics, especially political campaigns, were as much social events as "get out the vote" rallies. Long speeches were expected and seeing a candidate was considered a highlight. This was the first campaign where the candidate mattered more than the "favorite sons" selected by various states who would give their votes to the final candidate decided by the political party at the summer conventions. McKinley's campaign is widely considered to be the first modern presidential campaign. He was also the last Civil War veteran to be elected President. Immigration, widespread unemployment, and wealth for the few were issues that McKinley and Bryan campaigned on as well as tariffs and the gold standard. To this modern reader, Bryan ran a Trump-style campaign that featured fear and divisiveness while McKinley's campaign emphasized unity and prosperity.

Vincent T Lombardo Mar 18, 2016

Prodigiously researched, well-written, and very informative! I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I learned a lot and I highly recommend it if you are a history buff or political junkie!

Feb 29, 2016

to me this was a tough read, and I generally like books about presidents and elections. a large majority of the book revolves around the Free Silver vs Gold Standard debate of the time. and if you don't understand and/or care about it, you'll lose interest.

pw1040 Dec 21, 2015

This is an "I did not know that" book. Very easy to read. Informative as to the political customs of the time.


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Apr 08, 2019

"Both candidates knew the labor vote would deeply influence the election's outcome, even decide key states. As September opened, whose message would sway the 'toiling masses,' as Bryan called them? That of the Boy Orator of the Platte or that of the Napoleon of Protection?"

Apr 08, 2019

"McKinley drew on his many personal relationships, never got embroiled in making deals involving cabinet posts and patronage, and kept his campaign out of needless local fights by focusing on instruction rather than naming delegates."

Apr 08, 2019

"Elections in a large, diverse country like the United States rarely offer uncomplicated story lines."

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