True Believer

Hubert Humphrey's Quest for a More Just America

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By James Traub

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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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  • “A welcome resurrection of the life of an often-forgotten but significant political figure… An astute analysis of one of the last New Dealers.”
  • “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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