True Blues: The Contentious Transformation of the Democratic Party, Adam Hilton

Reviewed by David C. Barker



In this book, Adam Hilton provides a rich and fascinating account of the Democratic Party's evolution since the 1960s, and its political consequences more broadly. At first glance, True Blues looks like it is going to be “old news”—yet another retelling of how the Democratic Party abandoned its blue-collar identity in favor of identity politics—but Hilton breaks new ground in a number of ways, making several novel contributions.

First, unlike his predecessors, Hilton recounts not only the identity-based revolution of the party and the changes it wrought on the nominating institution, but also the backlash that those reforms inspired within the party (mostly among elected officials) and the ensuing struggle between reformers and counter-reformers that defined the next three decades.

Second, Hilton shows that, far from being “anti-party,” the reformers sought to strengthen the institutional infrastructure of the party that could systematically pursue the goals of an ideological movement—akin to what the Republican Party reformers eventually achieved. In Hilton's account, it was the failure of that effort, largely at the hands of the counter-reformers, that eventually hollowed out the Democratic Party and made it largely ineffectual as an organizational body.

Third, and relatedly, Hil

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