John F. Kennedy’s path to the presidency began during his eight years of service in the United States Senate. In The Senator from New England, Sean J. Savage contends that Kennedy initially pursued a centrist, bipartisan course in his rhetoric and policy behavior regarding the regional policy interests of New England. Following his narrow defeat for the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1956 and his nationwide speaking campaign for Adlai Stevenson, JFK’s rhetoric and policy behavior became more partisan and liberal, especially during the 1958 midterm elections. While JFK claimed that he still protected and promoted the policy interests of New England on a bipartisan basis, he used his speaking engagements to interact with Democratic politicians throughout New England in an effort to secure the entire region’s delegate votes at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Based on the use of primary sources, archives, and special collections from four presidential libraries, the Library of Congress, Boston College, the Margaret Chase Smith Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and other institutions, The Senator from New England provides an unrivaled glimpse into Kennedy’s Senate career and early presidential campaign strategy.
“Sean Savage’s masterful account of the early political career of John F. Kennedy takes a commanding place in the multitude of Kennedy biographies. With his focus on Kennedy as a US Senator and his complex relationship with President Eisenhower and major figures in his own party, Savage illuminates the ambition and shrewdness of this rising star of American politics and adds nuance and complexity to our picture of JFK.” — Ross K. Baker, author of Is Bipartisanship Dead? A Report from the Senate
“Asking how John F. Kennedy extricated himself from sometimes sordid and provincial state and regional politics to become an inspiring national leader, The Senator from New England provides new insights into the forces and strategies that propelled Kennedy into the presidency.” — Donald A. Ritchie, author of The U.S. Congress: A Very Short Introduction
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.
The roots of Roosevelt's plan for the party ran back to his experiences with New York politics in the 1920s. It was here, Savage argues, that Roosevelt first began to perceive that a pluralistic voting base and a liberal philosophy offered the best way for Democrats to contend with the established Republican organization. With the collapse of the economy in 1929 and the discrediting of Republican fiscal policy, Roosevelt was ready to carry his views to the national scene when elected president in 1932.
Through his analysis of the New Deal, Savage shows how Roosevelt made use of these programs to develop a policy agenda for the Democratic party, to establish a liberal ideology, and, most important, to create a coalition of interest groups and voting blocs that would continue to sustain the party long after his death. A significant aspect of Roosevelt's leadership was his reform of the Democratic National Committee, which was designed to make the party's organization more open and participatory in setting electoral platforms and in raising financial support.
Savage's exploration of Roosevelt's party leadership offers a new perspective on the New Deal era and on one of America's great presidents that will be valuable for historians and political scientists alike.