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Polarization and the Presidency: From FDR to Barack Obama

Robert C. Smith and Richard A. Seltzer
Polarization and the Presidency: From FDR to Barack Obama
ISBN: 978-1-62637-228-3
ISBN: 978-1-62637-241-2
2015/321 pages/LC: 2014042493
"This excellent and judicious book helps explain why US politics has become dysfunctional. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Bold and stimulating.... The authors provide a rich understanding of the policies and political strategies of presidents as they sought to create and sustain viable political coalitions."—Bert Rockman, Purdue University


Choice Outstanding Academic Book!

Robert Smith and Richard Seltzer offer fresh insights on the decisive, and often surprising, role of presidents and presidential candidates in polarizing US politics.
In a rich, multidimensional narrative, the authors show how presidential rhetoric and policies have served to divide voters along lines of class, party, race, and region. They also underscore the enduring consequences of George Wallace's, Barry Goldwater's, and George McGovern's failed presidential campaigns. Moving beyond the "guns, God, and gays" conventional wisdom, their distinctive contribution leads to an enhanced understanding of the political attitudes that have shaped today's polarized polity.


Robert C. Smith is professor of political science at San Francisco State University. Richard A. Seltzer is professor of political science at Howard University.


  • Polarization and the Presidency.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Harry S. Truman.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • John F. Kennedy.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • The Election of 1964.
  • Richard Nixon.
  • The Election of 1972.
  • Jimmy Carter.
  • Ronald Reagan.
  • George H.W. Bush.
  • Bill Clinton.
  • George W. Bush.
  • Barack Obama.
  • What Next?
  • Appendix.