Radicals in Power
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Radicals in Power : The New Left Experience in Office

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Our memory of Sixties New Left radicals often evokes marches in the streets, battles with the police, or urban bombings. However, the New Left was a multi-faceted movement, with diverse tendencies. One of these tendencies promoted electoral as the way to change America. In every city that was a center of New Left activism, this "Electoral New Left" entered the political arena. A surprisingly large number of these New Left radicals were elected to office: City Council, Mayor, State Senate, even the U.S. Senate. Once in office, they persisted and prevailed. Cities and places we think of today as eternally liberal-Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor, even the state of Vermont-were, deeply conservative and deeply Republican before the triumphs of the local Electoral New Left. These "Radicals in Power," however, brought about a lasting political realignment in their locales, and embodied the vision of a better future that was at the heart of all New Left activism. However, the accomplishments of the Electoral New Left, even its very existence, are almost completely unexplored. Historians of the social and political movements of the Sixties have focused on anti-Vietnam War protest movements, or on the Revolutionary New Left. Radicals in Power corrects that oversight and, in doing so, rewrites the history of the Sixties and the New Left. Based on interviews with the elected New Left radicals in each of their cities, Davin details the birth and evolution of a local and regional progressive politics that has, heretofore, been overlooked.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 157.48 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 635.03g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739174967
  • 9780739174968

Review quote

This book argues persuasively that the New Left did not end when SNCC, SDS, and the Black Panthers crashed and burned. Radicalism continued in electoral form in locations like Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor, and the State of Vermont, achieving significant reforms. What held these efforts together, Davin proposes, was a political culture left of liberalism but not quite socialism that he calls Left Populism, and compares to the rhetoric and music of the 1930s. Overall, he contrasts electoral New Leftism with the historic practice of Left parties in the United States to run local candidates solely for 'educational' purposes, hence to be unprepared to govern when their candidates win. -- Staughton Lynd, author of "Stepping Stones: Memoir of a Life Together" Focusing on a wide variety of leftists who have been elected to office, Eric Davin's Radicals in Power challenges the predominant view that the New Left disintegrated after the 1960s. His work should provoke a reconsideration of the New Left's legacy and the possibilities for a locally-based populist movement today. -- Peter B. Levy, York College Davin (Univ. of Pittsburgh) argues that historians have overlooked 1960s-70s radicals' forays into electoral politics, where he sees both traction and meaningful political change for the Left. He largely focuses on college towns and the election of student radicals to a variety of city councils, particularly analyzing left-leaning third parties such as the Peace and Freedom Party (California) and the Human Rights Party (Michigan) and their members' transition from opposition to incorporation into the Democratic Party. Davin demonstrates the importance, possibilities, and limitations of local politics. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty. CHOICE Davin has been interested in this topic for forty years, and during the 1970's and 1980's he interviewed most of the people who won the races that are covered in the book. A great deal of the book consists of the interviews. If he hadn't conducted those interviews in the past, the book could not have been written, because many of the key figures are no longer living. It would be a blessing if legislators and judges would read this book, because they might learn how much harm is done when people are blocked from electoral activity. Unfortunately, the publisher has put a price of $80 on the book. If enough libraries buy the book, the publisher will create a paperback, which will be considerably cheaper. Please ask your local library to buy the book. Ballot Access News In Radicals in Power Davin introduces us to New Left activists using electoral politics to create radical change. Davin calls this the Electoral New Left... His work is a welcome addition to the argument that the New Left lasted longer and was more diverse than first accounts suggest... The book's case-study approach works well... Davin is the first to provide sustained and comparative analysis of New Left electoral work. In Radicals in Power Davin introduces us to New Left activists using electoral politics to create radical change. Davin calls this the Electoral New Left... His work is a welcome addition to the argument that the New Left lasted longer and was more diverse than first accounts suggest... The book's case-study approach works well... Davin is the first to provide sustained and comparative analysis of New Left electoral work. Essays in Historyshow more

About Eric Leif Davin

Eric Leif Davin is professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, winner of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation's Bryant Spann Memorial Prize in Literature for his historical writing, and author of Crucible of Freedom: Workers' Democracy in the Industrial Heartland, 1914-1960.show more

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Introduction From Protest to Power: The Electoral New Left and the Long Sixties 1. The Liberation of Berkeley 2. A Freak for Sheriff 3. Kent State-And After 4. Madison: Two Wars at Home 5. The People's Party 6. Passing Through: Human Rights in Ann Arbor 7. Digging In: Human Rights in Ypsilanti 8. Urbana: Power on the Prairie 9. Marx in Motown 10. Democratic Socialists of America 11. Boston: A Socialist on Beacon Hill 12. Santa Cruz: Surf City Socialists 13. Vermont Exceptionalism Conclusion: The Electoral New Left and Local Left Populism Index About the Authorshow more

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