Moderates

The Vital Center of American Politics, from the Founding to Today

By David S. Brown

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2923-0
    Published: January 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2924-7
    Published: October 2016

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The fierce polarization of contemporary politics has encouraged Americans to read back into their nation’s past a perpetual ideological struggle between liberals and conservatives. However, in this timely book, David S. Brown advances an original interpretation that stresses the critical role of moderate statesmen, ideas, and alliances in making our political system work. Beginning with John Adams and including such key figures as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., and Bill Clinton, Brown charts the vital if uneven progress of centrism through the centuries. Moderate opposition to both New England and southern secessionists during the early republic and later resistance to industrial oligarchy and the modern Sunbelt right are part of this persuasion’s far-reaching legacy. Time and again moderates, operating under a broad canopy of coalitions, have come together to reshape the nation’s electoral landscape.

Today’s bitter partisanship encourages us to deny that such a moderate tradition is part of our historical development--one dating back to the Constitutional Convention. Brown offers a less polemical and far more compelling assessment of our politics.

About the Author

David S. Brown is the Raffensperger Professor of History at Elizabethtown College. His published works include Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography.
For more information about David S. Brown, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“This provocative and obviously timely analysis is an important reminder of the role that reason and compromise have played in bridging the gap between political extremes.”--Kirkus Reviews

"It's hard to imagine a better time for a few kind words on behalf of the moderate worldview--and we are fortunate to have them from [this] immoderately insightful new book"--Daniel Akst, The Wall Street Journal

“Closely narrated case studies. . . . [Moderates] has opened a promising line of inquiry.”--The Chronicle of Higher Education

“David Brown seeks to correct conventional wisdom by arguing that, historically, ‘moderates’ played a more significant role in American politics than today’s pundits on the right and left suggest. Taking issue with ‘presentists’ who maintain that moderates have had little intellectual consistency or influence, Brown traces moderate thought and policy proposals back to the founding of the nation, maintaining that centrism has always had a common purpose.”--Thomas W. Devine, California State University, Northridge

“Significant, striking, and highly original, David Brown’s Moderates grapples with major facets of American political history in an unconventional way. Rather than decrying polarization or tearfully asking how we got this way, Brown examines the major figures of the past who eschewed partisanship, practiced moderation, and strove mightily to keep the polity together. Brown’s comprehensive and refreshing look at the history of the moderate tradition will no doubt inform our current discussions surrounding the American political system.”--John Milton Cooper Jr., University of Wisconsin-Madison