Election 101 — A Historical Perspective

Introduction

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For historical perspective on the current elections, my favorite book is Jim Kloppenberg’s intellectual biography Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition, where he shows how much Obama has been influenced by the philosophical tradition of pragmatism that emerged largely from William James and John Dewey and continued to flourish through the work of Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, and others. A true intellectual president who is a pragmatist?

For a more long term view and historical assessment of our presidents, read Fred Greenstein’s classic book on presidential leadership called The Strategic President, in which the author offers a series of bottom-line judgments on each of his twelve subjects from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first hundred days to the momentous events of George W. Bush’s administration.

If you ever needed convincing that personal politics and relationships between leaders really do matter, check out Frank Costigliola’s Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances: How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War.

And finally, Amy Gutmann’s and Dennis Thompson’s The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It analyzes some fascinating historical and recent examples of Washington gridlock and dysfunction and presents some fascinating ideas of how to overcome this. Judy Woodruff, PBS Newshour anchor, wished that “every policymaker would read it!”

–Brigitta van Rheinberg, Editor-in-Chief, Executive Editor, History

 

Exclusive Excerpt

Click here to download an article on the history of Presidential leadership since 1932

Excerpted from The Concise Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History.

 

Featured Book

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Reading Obama
Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition
James T. Kloppenberg

 

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reading list

 


 

The Reading List

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How Bush Rules

Chronicles of a Radical Regime
Sidney Blumenthal
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Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances

How Personal Politics Helped Start the Cold War
Frank Costigliola
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Overreach

Leadership in the Obama Presidency
George C. Edwards III
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The Strategic President

Persuasion and Opportunity in Presidential Leadership
George C. Edwards III
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The Presidential Difference

Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama (Third Edition)
Fred I. Greenstein
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The Spirit of Compromise

Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It
Amy Gutmann & Dennis Thompson
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Thinking about Leadership

Nannerl O. Keohane
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Reading Obama

Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition
James T. Kloppenberg
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Richard Nixon

Speeches, Writings, Documents
Edited and Introduced by Rick Perlstein
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Morning in America

How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980′s
Gil Troy
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The Politics of Economic Leadership

The Causes and Consequences of Presidential Rhetoric
B. Dan Wood
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The Presidency of George W. Bush

A First Historical Assessment
Edited by Julian E. Zelizer
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Governing America

The Revival of Political History
Julian E. Zelizer

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