Unions, Radicals, and Democratic Presidents
Seeking Social Change in the Twentieth Century
by Martin Halpern
November 2003, 304pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-32471-0
$86, £64, 72€, A123
eBook Available: 978-0-313-09408-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Highlights key episodes in the struggles of labor unions, radicals, and progressive coalitions to produce reforms of benefit to working people, particularly during the terms of Democratic presidents.

Social change advocates won a remarkable series of victories during the 20th century. This study examines both successful and unsuccessful efforts, ranging from the women’s suffrage movement of the 1910s to the divisive debate between Gore and Nader supporters during the 2000 election. Halpern details the ingredients essential to shaping progressive campaigns. While left-wing activists sustained grass roots movements and worked with allies in left-center coalitions, trade unions energized by progressive activists gave the efforts institutional weight with crucial assistance from Democratic presidents committed to liberalism.

Frequently facing repression, left-wingers nevertheless managed to pass their values on to their children, who in turn sustained new sets of social movements. Leftists worked alongside other progressives to form left-center coalitions on issues such as Civil Rights and labor law reform. Influenced by liberalism, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Kennedy gave crucial assistance to the social change process. Shying away from liberalism, Carter and Clinton and Vice President Gore failed to provide comparable assistance, disappointing progressive activists and unions and leading to important setbacks. Whether the Democratic Party will once again seek to elect a president with a liberal vision to assist a revitalized labor movement, a newly energized left, and left-center coalitions in the social change process remains to be seen.

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