The Triumph of William McKinley

Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters

The Triumph of William McKinley

A fresh look at President William McKinley from New York Times bestselling author and political mastermind Karl Rove—“a rousing tale told by a master storyteller whose love of politics, campaigning, and combat shines through on every page” (Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Team of Rivals).

The 1896 political environment resembles that of today: an electorate being transformed by a growing immigrant population, an uncertain economy disrupted by new technologies, growing income inequality, and basic political questions the two parties could not resolve. McKinley’s winning presidential campaign addressed these challenges and reformed his party. With “a sure touch [and] professional eye” (The Washington Post), Rove tells the story of the 1896 election and shows why McKinley won, creating a governing majority that dominated American politics for the next thirty-six years.

McKinley, a Civil War hero, changed the arc of American history by running the first truly modern presidential campaign. Knowing his party needed to expand its base to win, he reached out to diverse ethnic groups, seeking the endorsement of Catholic leaders and advocating for black voting rights. Running on the slogan “The People Against the Bosses,” McKinley also took on the machine men who dominated his own party. He deployed campaign tactics still used today, including targeting voters with the best available technology. Above all, he offered bold, controversial answers to the nation’s most pressing problem—how to make a new, more global economy work for every American—and although this split his own party, he won the White House by sticking to his principles, defeating a champion of economic populism, William Jennings Bryan.

Rove “brings to life the drama of an electoral contest whose outcome seemed uncertain to the candidate and his handlers until the end” (The New York Times Book Review) in a “lively and…rigorous book” (The Wall Street Journal) that will delight students of American political history.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 496 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781476752969 | 
  • July 2016
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From the moment he set foot on it, Karl Rove has rocked America’s political stage. He ran the national College Republicans at twenty-two, and turned a Texas dominated by Democrats into a bastion for Republicans. He launched George W. Bush to national renown by unseating a popular Democratic governor, and then orchestrated a GOP White House win at a time when voters had little reason to throw out the incumbent party. For engineering victory after unlikely victory, Rove became known as “the...

About the Author

Karl Rove
Photograph © Paul Morse

Karl Rove

Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. He now writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal and is a Fox News contributor. Before he became known as “The Architect” of President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, Rove was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that was involved in over seventy-five campaigns for Republican candidates for president, governor and senator, as well as handling non-partisan causes and non-profit groups.

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