Cover image for Camelot's end : Kennedy vs. Carter and the fight that broke the Democratic Party / Jon Ward.
Camelot's end : Kennedy vs. Carter and the fight that broke the Democratic Party / Jon Ward.
Publication Information:
New York : Twelve, [2019]
Physical Description:
vi, 390 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Draws on interviews with major political leaders in an account of Ted Kennedy's 1980 campaign to secure the Democratic presidential nomination instead of incumbent Jimmy Carter that discusses how their rivalry reflected significant party changes.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
324.9730904 WAR Book Adult General Collection

On Order



From a strange, dark chapter in American political history comes the captivating story of Ted Kennedy's 1980 campaign for president against the incumbent Jimmy Carter, told in full for the first time.
The Carter presidency was on life support. The Democrats, desperate to keep power and yearning to resurrect former glory, turned to Kennedy. And so, 1980 became a civil war. It was the last time an American president received a serious reelection challenge from inside his own party, the last contested convention, and the last all-out floor fight, where political combatants fought in real time to decide who would be the nominee. It was the last gasp of an outdated system, an insider's game that old Kennedy hands thought they had mastered, and the year that marked the unraveling of the Democratic Party as America had known it.

Camelot's End details the incredible drama of Kennedy's challenge -- what led to it, how it unfolded, and its lasting effects -- with cinematic sweep. It is a story about what happened to the Democratic Party when the country's long string of successes, luck, and global dominance following World War II ran its course, and how, on a quest to recapture the magic of JFK, Democrats plunged themselves into an intra-party civil war.
And, at its heart, Camelot's End is the tale of two extraordinary and deeply flawed men: Teddy Kennedy, one of the nation's greatest lawmakers, a man of flaws and of great character; and Jimmy Carter, a politically tenacious but frequently underestimated trailblazer. Comprehensive and nuanced, featuring new interviews with major party leaders and behind-the-scenes revelations from the time, Camelot's End presents both Kennedy and Carter in a new light, and takes readers deep inside a dark chapter in American political history.

Author Notes

Jon Ward has chronicled American politics and culture for two decades, as a city desk reporter in Washington D.C., as a White House correspondent who traveled aboard Air Force One to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and as a national affairs correspondent who has traveled the country to write about two presidential campaigns and the ideas and people animating our times. He is a senior political correspondent for Yahoo News and has been published in The Washington Post , The New Republic , The Huffington Post , The Daily Caller , and The Washington Times . He and his family live in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his captivating debut political history, journalist Ward dissects the 1980 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, when Sen. Ted Kennedy, in an unprecedented move, challenged the embattled incumbent president, Jimmy Carter. Ward gives quick parallel accounts of both men's early lives, showcasing differences and similarities ("As with Carter, there were deep ties to family pulling Teddy toward a destiny he did not fully control"). Then Ward dives deep into Carter's first term, including Iran's capture of U.S. embassy hostages, and Kennedy's campaign, including an entire chapter devoted to a disastrous interview in which Kennedy struggled to articulate his motivation for running and rekindled public concerns about his involvement in the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne. The book moves at a steady clip, but not by sacrificing scholarship-Ward draws on journalism of the day, previous biographies, histories, memoirs, and new interviews with some of the players. He engages fully with the complexities and contradictions of both men, including a depiction of Carter as "a man whose toothy grin masked a determined and competitive politician" with a mean streak that may surprise readers only familiar with the nonagenarian Habitat for Humanity volunteer. Ward's recounting of the seesaw of public opinion in 1980 makes for enthralling reading. Agent: Bridget Wagner Matzie, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Sailing Against the Windp. 11
Chapter 2 Origins of Dirt and Richesp. 23
Chapter 3 The Pull of Home and Politicsp. 35
Chapter 4 A Sense of the Voidp. 54
Chapter 5 A Rivalry Beginsp. 71
Chapter 6 The Outsiderp. 90
Chapter 7 Lancedp. 109
Chapter 8 Malaisep. 123
Chapter 9 The Inevitable Return of Camelotp. 145
Chapter 10 Muddp. 158
Chapter 11 Upendedp. 178
Chapter 12 "I Didn't Ask for a Challenger"p. 195
Chapter 13 Civil Warp. 215
Chapter 14 Robot Rulep. 228
Chapter 15 Losing Altitudep. 240
Chapter 16 Giant Killerp. 253
Chapter 17 Mr. Meanp. 274
Chapter 18 Aftermathp. 287
Acknowledgmentsp. 311
Sourcesp. 317
Notesp. 325
Indexp. 379