The Wicked Wine of Democracy

A Memoir of a Political Junkie, 1948-1995

Joseph S. Miller

  • Published: August 2015
  • Subject Listing: History / American History; Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir; Pacific Northwest / History
  • Bibliographic information: 280 pp., 16 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

The Wicked Wine of Democracy is a frank account by a political operative and practicing lobbyist who in the early 1950s went from being a journalist in Seattle to working on the campaigns of such important political figures as Warren G. Magnuson, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Frank Church, William Proxmire, and, finally, John F. Kennedy. He was so successful in managing the media for campaigns across the country that in 1957 the Washington Post labeled him "the Democrat's answer to Madison Avenue." After Kennedy's victory, Miller opened a lobbying office on Capitol Hill and took on clients as diverse as the United Steelworkers of America, the Western Forest Industries Association, and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association. In this always revealing and often humorous memoir, Miller reports on the highlights and backroom conversations from political campaigns, labor negotiations, and lobbying deals to give an honest picture of how politics worked over his forty-year career in the nation's Capitol.
Joseph S. Miller is a retired lobbyist living in Washington, D.C. Miller wrote and edited for the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Boise Daily Statesman, Oregon Journal, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer before beginning his career as a media consultant for political campaigns and a lobbyist for a variety of unions and associations.

"For more than 50 years, Joe Miller worked behind the scenes in the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C., as a journalist, campaign insider, lobbyist, and fixer. Along the way, he was an astute, acerbic, and highly interested observer of the political process."
-Stephen Ponder, author of Managing the Press

"Rarely does a memoir deal so candidly and engagingly with political campaigns and influence peddling. He provides illuminating and often delightful vignettes of Lyndon Johnson, Warren Magnuson, John Kennedy, William Proxmire, Robert Byrd, Quentin Burdick, and Barry Goldwater. His insider accounts of legislative battles and political campaigns are invariably absorbing and illustrative of the way that politics really works."
-LeRoy Ashby, author of Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church

Foreword / Shelby Scates

1. A Political Junkie
2. Something Special - Dick Neuberger
3. Maggie and the Tiger
4. Frosty
5. Prox
6. Winning Big
7. Revenge in Kentucky
8. Hawaiian Odysseys
9. A State That Time Forgot
10. Outside on the Inside
11. The Campaign and Aftermath
12. A Lobbyist Is a Lobbyist Is a Lobbyist
13. No Vestal Virgin in the Whorehouse
14. The Spotted Owl and Other Varmints
15. Mike's "Fish Bowl"
16. Pirates of Pork
17. Strike! Strike! Strike!
18. Battle of the "Black Hats"
19. The Wicked Wine of the Democratic Process
20. Reflections

A Word about Sources

"'Smiling Joe' Miller's fascinating story is vividly and candidly recounted in his memoir . . . packed full of fascinating political anecdotes as well as public policy discussion. Students of Northwest political history, in particular, won't want to pass up what 'may be the most relevant look at American politics in the last half of the twentieth century that you will ever read.'."
-Blue Oregon

"The Wicked Wine of Democracy hums along like a Shiraz-warmed conversation at the dinner table."
-Seattle Times

"In this campaign season, [Miller's] book is an entertaining reminder that while political policies and philosophies matter, so do personalities, backroom arm-bending, and that wicked wine."
-Bellingham Herald

"Joe Miller has spared no one, including himself. He played the game long and devotedly, did it with good intentions, and has earned his reputation as a good man."

"[Miller's] comments on money remind us both of the pervasiveness of the fat envelope in American political history, and that, while the process is now less crude, the denominations are a lot larger. About the role of money in politics, Miller concludes, 'Does it work? Almost always. What is different these days is the aggressive way that money is pursued, by both sides."
-Oregon Historical Quarterly