A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

James Moronewrites:

Michael Kazin is a fine historian who specialises in the lost causes of the left. He has written sympathetic books on the Populist movement and the 1960s. In A Godly Hero, his life of Bryan, he now draws an unexpected conclusion: defying capitalists and defending fundamentalists were two sides of the same philosophy. An urgent message runs through the biography: Democrats will never regain the common touch until they find a way to reclaim both parts of Bryan’s legacy. At the same time, every twist in the Bryan story provokes a disquieting question: is a leftist populism still possible today? Or do racial anxieties inevitably unravel everyman’s rebellion against money power?

(LRB21 February 2008)