Cover image for Crossroads : the future of American politics
Crossroads : the future of American politics
Cuomo, Andrew Mark, 1957-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2003]

Physical Description:
xviii, 301 pages ; 25 cm
Corporate Subject:

Format :


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JK2316 C76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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An array of leading Democrats, Republicans, and independent thinkers provide a road map for America's political future. America is at a turning point. For the first time in history, the United States is the world's lone superpowerin Andrew Cuomo's words, "both the tamer and target of an unstable world." New technology and the omnipresent media have transformed the way we do everything, from amassing wealth to practicing politics. Simultaneously, the U.S. economy is in a shambles, with the largest federal budget deficit in our history. The coming octogenarian boom promises to put the greatest strain on federal government resources the United States has ever known, and America is faced with new security threats and diplomatic crises daily. The success of our nation in the coming decades will depend on how our elected leaders respond to these challenges. Can the Democrats, divided and ineffectual since well before the crushing defeats of 2002, revitalize their agenda, forge a meaningful message, and end the Republican stranglehold on the federal government? Can Republicans, fresh from new victories, build on their successes? And how will a younger generation, largely alienated from both parties but often intensely political, articulate its desires in the years ahead? The writers invited by Andrew Cuomo to contribute to this landmark book, a who's who of American leadership, address these and other pressing questions of our political life. At once a diagnosis and a call to arms, Crossroads will set the terms of political debate as America moves forward.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Cuomo, son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo, and defeated candidate for the same office, offers a collection of 41 essays by the nation's most thoughtful citizens, expounding on the current state of American politics. The contributors--lawmakers, consultants, and academics, both Democrat and Republican--represent a broad range of political thought and involvement. Still, they focus on some common themes: the need for new ideas and approaches in politics and the need to improve the nation's system of governance. The contributors comment on the strategies of their own party and the opposing party, and the challenge of projecting a message that reflects the concerns of the citizenry. Essayists include several current Democratic presidential candidates: Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry, Lieberman, Moseley Braun, and Sharpton. Other contributors include Bill Clinton on the chances for Democrats to regain voter appeal and rapper Sean P. Diddy Combs on the dearth of candidates with appeal to young adults. Sure to lure readers interested in politics, particularly as the presidential election looms. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Cuomo, former secretary of housing and urban development, intends for these three dozen-plus essays to provide a road map for bringing the Democratic Party back to prominence. The essayists include most of the current Democratic candidates for president, a number of academics who analyze political trends, Republicans eager to share their views on what is wrong with the Democratic Party and, for good measure, several outside-the-box contributors such as hip-hop eminences Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and Russell Simmons. The presidential candidates offer mostly sensible but predictable prescriptions. Sen. John Edwards opines on the need "to do far better by America's families," while Sen. John Kerry invokes the need for a "better, fairer economic policy that grows jobs and creates wealth for all Americans." Sen. Bob Graham suggests equally blandly, "We need leaders who listen to the people of America...." Less predictable but somewhat baffling are the comments of Combs, who argues that young voters aren't interested in politics because politicians seem to lack passion: "That's why we need some fistfights to go down in the Senate," he asserts. Among the earnest Democratic rhetoric and insincere critical assessments (of Democrats) by self-satisfied Republicans, there is a provocative piece by Princeton professor Sean Wilentz that argues that the 2000 election was marred by the effort of some Republican operatives to suppress the voting rights of minorities. But whatever this compilation's overall merits, the irony of California governor Gray Davis's advice on how to bring back the party of Roosevelt and Clinton is inescapable. Agent, William Morris. (On sale Oct. 14) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Letter from a Democratic Party Pooper Tim Ashe A master's student at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, Tim Ashe formerly worked on the staff of Congressman Bernie Sanders in Vermont, where he resides. The emperor can change his clothes, but he'll still be naked. This extension of the classic fable lies at the heart of the failure of national Democrats to capture the imagination (and needed votes) of the electorate. It also explains why I left the Democratic Party. Two story lines in the Democrats' operatic departure from a cogent belief set explain why Republicans have made such major gains in recent years at the federal, state, and local levels. First, the Democratic Leadership Council has successfully, though never substantively, argued that the American voter is in the middle. Second, while the Republicans put up a united front with a lockstep set of positions on key issues, the Democrats have been drifting, aimlessly "appealing" to one voter bloc or another. This second point not only suggests the need for a reaffirmation of core party beliefs, but also questions whether the current party leadership will be able to turn this tragic play into a comedy. In July 2001, a freelance writer confronted President Bush in a greeting line and told him he was disappointed with his performance to that point. Bush, responding with customary charm, allegedly said, "Who cares what you think?" Before turning to a discussion of the recent failings of the Democratic Party, let me tell you why you should care what I think. I should be a Democrat. From Massachusetts, mother a teacher and father a civil servant, family of Kennedy-philes, student at the Kennedy School of Government. Most important, onetime Democratic voter. I've got a long life of political activism ahead of me. My loyalties are to ideas and not a party, so if my energies are not going to the Dems, they'll be going somewhere else. It's up to the leadership of the party to decide whether people like me will return to and someday lead the party that once stood more strongly and clearly for the average citizen. So Who Is a Liberal? Al From, Bruce Reed, and others who subscribe to the moderating tendencies of the Democratic Leadership Council would have us believe that the majority of Americans are center or just right of center on the political spectrum. As evidence, they cite various polls in which registered voters more often than not self-identify as somewhat or mostly conservative. Anything, that is, except a liberal. And so, the logic goes, the Democratic Party needs to move to the center because that's where the voters are. There are two critical points that call these self-identifying polls into question. First, the very word liberal has followed the path of "political correctness." In other words, it's pejorative. It's a badge of shame that emasculates men and radicalizes women. And in a cruel marriage that has Tom DeLay licking his lips, it's not uncommon to hear today's iconoclastic media figures referring to one or another "politically correct liberal." The labels make matters exponentially worse when coupled: "tax-and-spend liberals," or, better yet, "Kennedy liberals." Any observer with an ear to the ground can agree that most people (including many members of Congress) want to be called a liberal like they want to drink poison. Can we trust the instinct to move to the center? Can Demo- crats afford to lurch yet farther to the middle because a sample of voters will not say that they are liberal? Perhaps an appropriate manner of answering these questions, and to get to the second point, is to put the onus on the moderating forces of the party to explain what is, to understate slightly, an enormous problem with their logic. Polls show that a majority of Americans do not want to label themselves "liberal." Fair enough. But polls also show that most Americans, in fact large majorities, strongly support so-called liberal positions on health care, Social Security, and education. Same goes for the environment, a living wage, and programs for people with disabilities. What do we make of this voter, who calls himself "somewhat conservative" while standing ideologically with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party on almost every issue of substance? A conservative? That doesn't seem to fit quite right. A liberal? Well, not by the voter's own admission. To take an example from my adopted home state, how do we explain the fact that a majority of the most "conservative" voters in the state of Vermont consistently vote to elect a socialist congressman? Somehow, in the process of taking over the national Democratic Party, the DLC has not been required to demonstrate why the party should change its policies to meet voters' self- identification, rather than to embrace policies endorsed by a vast majority of Americans. This failure cannot be taken lightly, particularly when it comes to energizing young people. Without a core set of beliefs, young people will continue to bypass elections or vote third party. And no movement has survived in this country without young people. This takes us to the next point. How About Less Appealing and More Being? During any national election cycle, our newspapers are filled daily with stories of campaign stops to "appeal" to women, IT leaders, investors, or the like. Maybe the candidate for president has discovered that single professional women might tip the election in one direction and so he schedules a meeting with that demographic in a swing state. Younger people like myself can understand the importance of getting the message to different types of voters. But we also understand the nature of a chameleon, and we don't want to vote for a leaf and elect a reptile. Over the last ten years, the Republican Party has aggressively staked out positions on issues of importance, while the Democrats have slumped along like a kid brother, following the general formula of proposing half of everything bad and double everything good. I will leave it to professionals to argue the psychology of elections or congressional strategy. But as a voter, and since you've been losing elections, I hope you will leave it to me to tell you that voters are tiring of "the man of a thousand faces." The Republicans are publicly consistent, and voters know--at least they think they do--what to expect from them. Perhaps most alarming of all, at the university level campus activists are increasingly likely to look like George Will rather than, well, an improvement on that. What's a Party to Do? The Democratic Party needs to reaffirm its party platform. John Podesta recently said about the Democratic Party: "The one thing that unites us is, to some extent, negative--we're united in thinking that the Republicans are wrong." That is not good enough anymore. The Republicans being wrong doesn't make the Demo- crats right. Even many Gore voters, for instance, admitted that Nader was "more right" than their candidate on many issues. Such a reaffirmation could take the form of a Contract with America-like agenda, a more united stand against the current administration, or an energetic issue-based convention. The way to enforce this new code or set of party beliefs is with the one thing that all politicians understand--money. There is room in the Democratic Party (or any other) for debate. Not every candidate need be identical, and ideological discussion among allies helps build a strong, relevant party. But frankly, when someone drifts too far from the core, they're probably in the wrong party. The national party, then, should not commit any national funds to candidates who do not commit their support to a core set of principles. Then the Democratic Party will find its ranks energized and, having shed the last of the invisible clothes, the emperor can don something vibrant so long in the waiting. Excerpted from Crossroads: The Future of American Politics All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.