"This is history told the old-fashioned way. The book is only as long as it needs to be, the adroit narrative full of heroes (Smith, Roosevelt, big-city Democratic bosses) and villains (William Randolph Hearst, William Jennings Bryan, the Ku Klux Klan). The scenes are vivid and the anecdotes plentiful." —The Wall Street Journal
"Frank & Al is the latest of Mr. Golway’s several captivating books on New York politics. He delivers once again, with a timely narrative on the centennial of Smith’s first election as governor." —The New York Times
"The tangled, tragic story of Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt is one of the great tales of American politics, and Terry Golway has told it beautifully. This is a joyous book... an especially important book now." —Joe Klein
"I highly recommend this fascinating and enlightening book." —Franklin D. Roosevelt, III
"Beautifully written...The book is must reading for anyone interested in the history of American politics and the rise of the country’s welfare state." —Robert Dallek, author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
“A marvelous portrait... Highly recommend!” —Douglas Brinkley, author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
The inspiring story of an unlikely political partnership—between a to-the-manor-born Protestant and a Lower East Side Catholic—that transformed the Democratic Party and led to the New Deal
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Democratic Party was bitterly split between its urban machines—representing Catholics and Jews, ironworkers and seamstresses, from the tenements of the northeast and Midwest—and its populists and patricians, rooted in the soil and the Scriptures, enforcers of cultural, political, and religious norms. The chasm between the two factions seemed unbridgeable. But just before the Roaring Twenties, Al Smith, a proud son of the Tammany Hall political machine, and Franklin Roosevelt, a country squire, formed an unlikely alliance that transformed the Democratic Party. Smith and FDR dominated politics in the most-powerful state in the union for a quarter-century, and in 1932 they ran against each other for the Democratic presidential nomination, setting off one of the great feuds in American history.
The relationship between Smith and Roosevelt, portrayed in Terry Golway's Frank and Al, is one of the most dramatic untold stories of early 20th Century American politics. It was Roosevelt who said once that everything he sought to do in the New Deal had been done in New York under Al Smith when he was governor in the 1920s. It was Smith who persuaded a reluctant Roosevelt to run for governor in 1928, setting the stage for FDR’s dramatic comeback after contracting polio in 1921. They took their party, and American politics, out of the 19th Century and created a place in civic life for the New America of the 20th Century.
Golway, a senior editor at Politico and a former member of the editorial board of the New York Times, explores the relationship and political alliance between future president Franklin Roosevelt, the upper-class patrician, and powerful New York politician Al Smith, child of the Tammany Hall machine, which he credits with providing the political base that enabled the New Deal. The two men met in 1911, when Roosevelt joined Smith in the New York legislature, and continued crossing paths for the next 30 years, most often as allies but sometimes as bitter competitors both vied for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination. Golway highlights Roosevelt's support of Smith's first run for governor and 1928 campaign for president (likely lost because of widespread prejudice against Smith's Catholicism). Smith's career is more interesting he served three terms as governor of New York, during which he engineered numerous progressive policies around such issues as worker protections and it provides the opportunity to delve into New York machine politics. Smith is portrayed as rough around the edges, with an eighth-grade education, "workingman's bellow," and loud suits, but also as a likable, admirable politician. The Roosevelt-Smith relationship is a well-chosen prism through which to view the foundational political alliance of the Democratic Party.