True Believer

Hubert Humphrey's Quest for a More Just America


By James Traub

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 13, 2024. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A celebrated historian recounts Hubert Humphrey’s role as a liberal hero of twentieth-century America
Hubert Humphrey was liberalism’s most dedicated defender, and its most public and tragic sacrifice. As a young politician in 1948, he defied segregationists and forced the Democratic Party to commit itself to civil rights. As a senator in 1964, he made good on that commitment by helping pass the Civil Rights Act. But as Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice president, his support for the war in Vietnam made him a target for both Right and Left, and he suffered a shattering loss in the presidential election of 1968.
Though Humphrey’s defeat was widely seen as the end of America’s era of liberal optimism, he never gave up. Even after his humiliation on the most public stage, he crafted a new vision of economic justice to counter the yawning political divisions consuming American politics. This biography reveals a deep-dyed idealist willing to compromise and even fight ugly in pursuit of a better society. Elegantly crafted and strikingly relevant to the present, True Believer celebrates Hubert Humphrey’s long struggle for justice for all.
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  • “Compelling… Traub has rendered here a sensitive, vivid and sometimes poignant portrait of a political crusader.”
    Wall Street Journal
  • “A brisk, engaging biography of Humphrey with an urgent underlying message for today’s liberals.”
    New York Times Book Review
  • “Deft and thoughtful… Traub argues that studying the life of Humphrey—the late mayor of Minneapolis, senator, and vice president—is instructive, cautionary, and inspiring. His thesis is correct on all three counts.”
    Washington Monthly
  • “Readers who want to dive deep into Humphrey's world will appreciate Traub's thorough reporting… It's at its best when bringing history to life with fascinating anecdotes.”
    Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • “Perceptive and beautifully written.”
    Air Mail
  • “Excellent… Brings the spirit of Humphrey’s politics to life in ways that go beyond a simple tally of his achievements and failings.”
    Liberal Patriot
  • “An immensely readable biography that manages to move beyond nostalgia to remind us of the complex personal and psychological tensions such a politics imparted to its ‘true believers.’”
  • “In the mode of Robert Caro… This corrective, vivid biography expands readers' knowledge of Humphrey.”
    Booklist (Starred)
  • “A welcome resurrection of the life of an often-forgotten but significant political figure… An astute analysis of one of the last New Dealers.”
    Kirkus (Starred)
  • “In True Believer, Traub traces not just Hubert Humphrey’s life but the rise and fall of mid-20th century liberalism with all of its courage, promise, triumphs, contradictions, compromises, limitations, and myopic insufficiencies exemplified in the talents, fortunes, and failures of one man.”
    New York Journal of Books
  • "A masterful biography of Hubert Humphrey that presents him as a fascinating, three-dimensional figure, not the cardboard cutout later generations may know."
    Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the New York Times
  • “An admiring biography of firebrand politician Hubert Humphrey.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “A flattering look at a liberal political figure. Fans of American political history will appreciate this one.”
    Library Journal
  • “Hubert Humphrey’s life precisely overlapped the rise and fall of big-government liberalism as the dominant creed in American politics. James Traub’s wise and absorbing biography of Humphrey never stints in crediting him with helping shape that political moment, and never flinches from showing how little he was able to do to resist its passing. True Believer brings to life an unjustly forgotten politician and reminds us that it is possible for a politician to be an honorable and good-hearted person.”
    Nicholas Lemann, author of Transaction Man
  • “The best biographies offer not only a portrait of a fascinating historical figure—but also a window into their era and a mirror that helps us understand our own. Traub’s True Believer succeeds on all three counts. It is a riveting account of one of the greatest presidents America never had.”
    Yascha Mounk, author of The Great Experiment
  • “Traub is known as both an exemplary political biographer and an astute analyst of American liberalism. Both sets of talents are on display in True Believer, which brilliantly captures Humphrey, midcentury liberalism’s most powerful public champion—with all his righteousness, decency, and hunger to improve regular people’s lives, but also his struggles and failures. The triumphs and tragedy of Humphrey, Traub shows us in this compulsively readable story, are also those of liberalism itself.”
    David Greenberg, author of Calvin Coolidge

On Sale
Feb 13, 2024
Page Count
528 pages
Basic Books

James Traub

About the Author

James Traub has spent the last forty years as a journalist for America’s leading publications, including the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine. He now teaches foreign policy and intellectual history at NYU Abu Dhabi and writes for Foreign Policy. He has authored eight previous books on foreign and domestic affairs. He lives in New York City.

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