THE TRIUMPH OF WILLIAM McKINLEY: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters | Karl Rove | Simon & Schuster, 483 pages. For students of American political history, this is a must-read. Impeccably researched and fairly fluid in prose, the book traces the election of 1896 with all the context required to understand key players, their backgrounds, motivations, and the issues and ideas of the day. Reading it during an election year makes it even more relevant and current. McKinley’s massive win created a three-decade majority for his Party that dominated the nation until the segregationist Woodrow Wilson defeated Supreme Court Justice Hughes in 1916. So how did McKinley win, and what were the currents at play? We still face many of the same issues: a growing immigrant population, an economy disrupted, and income inequality. The more things change, the more they stay the same. McKinley’s campaign slogan, “The People Against the Bosses,” was shaped to attract Catholic voters as he advocated for black voting rights against the populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan.
McKinley answered Bryan's “cross of gold” challenge, noting that American workmen should be paid “100-cent dollars, not 52-cent dollars.” Taking the issue of inflation or silver - that split both parties off the table - he proposed a series of protective tariffs to boost domestic manufacturing and farming. He outgrew his isolationism in economics and foreign policy as he matured in office. McKinley was a Civil War hero at 20; the Canton, Ohio native was gerrymandered out of Congress to become his state’s Governor. From there, he was thrust onto the national stage, which led to his election and eventual assignation. McKinley tackled big issues with solutions, broadened his Party’s base by adding - not subtracting - and projected an image of America based not upon its glorious past but on its promising future. Oh, where, oh where, has McKinley gone.