Realigners: Partisan Hacks, Political Visionaries, and the Struggle to Rule American Democracy

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$30.00  $27.90
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date
5.98 X 9.13 X 1.42 inches | 1.45 pounds

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About the Author

Timothy Shenk is an assistant professor of history at George Washington University. The coeditor of Dissent magazine, he has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, London Review of Books, The Nation, The New Republic, and Jacobin, among other publications. He has been a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the New America Foundation. He lives outside Washington, D.C.


[Realigners] is fair in its criticisms, vividly written, impressively researched, and--best of all--delightfully out of step with present-day liberal orthodoxy . . . Highly readable. --Barton Swaim, The Wall Street Journal

Compelling . . . Shenk deftly maps out the genealogy of discord and those charismatic figures it birthed . . . Shenk snaps each piece of his narrative together like a jigsaw, highlighting emblematic characters. --Oprah Daily

Shenk offers a valuable framework for analyzing American politics . . . An astute and stylish history that speaks to present-day concerns over partisan polarization." --Publishers Weekly

"This is an exhilarating book. Shenk sees clearly that democracy can change the world, but that most attempts end in tragedy rather than victory. From James Madison through W.E.B. Du Bois and Walter Lippmann, to Phyllis Schlafly and Barack Obama, his characters stand at this political fault line. Every chapter shines with insight, arresting detail, and vivid judgment. This is a work of political history worthy of a novelist, and a work of political realism that--just--shows how to keep democratic hope alive." --Jedediah Purdy, professor of law at Columbia University and author of Two Cheers for Politics, This Land is Our Land, and other books

Realigners announces the emergence of a bold, deeply informed, and highly original new voice in the world of American politics and its history, with special attention to the relationship between political elites and the broader public. Its closest antecedent is Richard Hofstadter's The American Political Tradition, and like that iconic work it is beautifully written and argued, and filled with insights that will inform both specialists and a broader public that wants to know the origins of our current democratic dilemmas. --Eric Foner, professor of history emeritus at Columba University and author of The Story of American Freedom and other books

Timothy Shenk's Realigners bristles with historical insight useful at this moment of extraordinary peril for American democracy. --Randall Kennedy, professor at Harvard Law School and author of Say It Loud!

For better or worse, Americans who want to transform their country have always needed to do the hard work of building coalitions and majorities. Tim Shenk's terrific history shows how to do that--and how to be an idealist at the same time. Today's activists and strategists have much to learn from earlier efforts, whether failures, successes, or the many bold historical experiments that fell somewhere in between. If you care about the past, present, or future of democracy, read this book. --Beverly Gage, professor of history at Yale University and author of G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century

Combining gripping narratives of political lives with structural insights into the longstanding impediments to democracy, Realigners is a sweeping exploration of how transformative coalitions in the U.S. have been built and lost. Beautifully written and filled with essential insights, it should be read and debated by anyone concerned with the state of American politics. --Aziz Rana, author of The Two Faces of American Freedom

Realigners is an untimely book, in the best sense. In defiance of fashionable bottom-up social history, Timothy Shenk shows the centrality of leaders in American history, outsiders and insiders alike. In an age of gargantuan biographies, Shenk is a virtuoso of the miniature portrait and the significant vignette. And in an era of polarization and partisanship, Shenk shows that is possible to combine political engagement with respect for those who disagree. --Michael Lind, author of The New Class War