The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics
In 1934, voters hoping to turn the tide of the Great Depression backed an unlikely candidate for governor of California: Upton Sinclair, muckraking author of The Jungle and lifelong socialist. Amazingly, Sinclair swept the Democratic primary, leading a mass movement called EPIC (End Poverty in California). Alarmed, Sinclair’s opponents launched an unprecedented public relations blitzkrieg to discredit him. The result was nothing less than a revolution in American politics, and with it, the era of the “spin doctor” and the “attack ad” on the screen was born. Hollywood took its first all-out plunge into politics. In a riveting, blow-by-blow narrative featuring the likes of Franklin Roosevelt, Irving Thalberg, H. L. Mencken, William Randolph Hearst, Will Rogers, and Katharine Hepburn, Greg Mitchell brings to life the outrageous campaign that forever transformed the electoral process.
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This book is pervasively and massively biased toward the left. The first time you read it, this is noticeable. The second time,the bias, exhibited at the most basic level of wording, is almost ludicrous. Nevertheless, the book is extensively documented and full of information I had never seen or even suspected. I had no idea that Upton Sinclair, famous muckraking writer, had run for governor of California at all, much less what a radical platform he had. I had not understood that the early 1930s were such a time of turmoil. I guess there just weren't any "good old days"! A trite observation, but one that constantly comes to mind as you read about this early struggle between left and right in California,, where it would appear that neither side was that of the angels. The author makes sure you see that the right was corrupt; he soft-pedals, indeed does his best simply to ignore, the faults of the left, but they appear readily enough from the great amount of detail he gives. The book is more instructive than its author evidently intends. Among other things, it mentions a number of "authorities" of my youth (television news luminaries, cultural commentators, and so forth--formers of opinion, in other words)) in a context that shows that they were in their own formative experiences definitely men of the left. The received opinion of the cultural elite of the 60s and 70s was more closely tied to the struggles of the 30s than I had recognized. The campaign rhetoric for and against Upton Sinclair for governor of California is eerily similar to what we are hearing on a national level right now.