Rick Perlstein’s Epic History of Conservative Politics in America

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Reaganland: America’s Right Turn (2020)

The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (2014)

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008)

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001)

Reaganland: America’s Right Turn, the fourth and final volume of Rick Perlstein’s magisterial series on the rise of conservative politics in the United States between 1958 and 1980, emerged in the midst of the 2020 election for president that pit Donald Trump against Joseph Biden. …

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Joe Biden’s election as president has renewed focus on the desperate need for economic relief and recovery policies. For New York, it comes not a minute too soon. Our city and state were in crisis long before COVID-19 laid the fact bare and magnified it, and we will need bold action at every level of government to get beyond the ill state of affairs that existed before the virus struck.

The stage has been set for it. Like the Great Depression and World War II, COVID has taught a generation that our economic and physical security depends on collective action.

Consider the things that affect quality of life for people and families. We have long had a state and citywide housing affordability crisis. Two-thirds of New York’s students lacked grade-level proficiency in English and math before remote learning requirements upended our education system. Our local and regional transportation networks were already in physical and financial emergencies when riders stopped commuting. Our health-care system has become a leading cause of family bankruptcies. …

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Two New York governors published memoirs within weeks of each other recently: Andrew Cuomo’s much commented upon American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and David Paterson’s less noted Black, Blind & In Charge: A Story of Visionary Leadership and Overcoming Adversity. Politically attuned New Yorkers will learn few new details from these self-congratulatory narratives, although both provide insight into what makes a governor succeed or fail.

Paterson was lieutenant to Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2008 when federal agents recorded his boss arranging illegal date nights with high priced call girls. The revelations coincided with accusations that Spitzer had ordered state police to spy on his arch political enemy, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. …

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Beame, Bloomberg and de Blasio: Different problems; different outcomes. (AP)

New York City is confronting calamities as intimidating as any in its history. With inspired leadership and a federal government commitment, the city can recover rapidly from its multi-layered crisis, and there is even a chance that the shock of the moment can push aside progress-killing inertia to make way for long-overdue changes. But without support from Washington and without a savvy local leader to channel it, New York’s prospects are grim.

At the moment, New Yorkers are suffering from a malevolent leader in the White House and a strangely vacuous one in City Hall. …

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The Declaration of Independence asserted we all have an unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, yet a recent public survey suggests Americans are as unhappy as we have been anytime in the past half-century. It stands to reason that the government we created to give form to the Founding Father’s ideas should make it easy for people to do the things that will make them content. What are they? I put nine at the top of the list.

Enough money to pay for life’s basics, a safe place to live, and good health. An intimate relationship, and the love of a family. A sense of belonging to a community, the support of trusted friends, a general sense of fairness in our daily lives, and a sense of purpose. …

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to rely on Eric Schmidt and Bill Gates to re-imagine how New Yorkers incorporate technology into our 21st-century economy and into the future of learning is smart and dangerous.

COVID-19’s painful disruption of business-as-usual across almost every aspect of daily life has blown up the status quo. Rather than rebuild the old world on the rubble, the governor has wisely recognized we have a chance to think anew.

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The 8:46 minute video is arresting.

A police officer in Minneapolis is seen kneeling on a black man’s neck and back, suffocating him to death while three other officers watch with astonishing indifference. The black man was never armed and is already subdued. “I can’t breathe,” he says. The police do nothing. In dying desperation, he calls for his mama. A viewer’s heart breaks watching it, millions of times over, until the nation’s body politic spasms into protest the way a human body suffers a seizure.

The crime?

George Floyd was accused of passing a phony twenty-dollar bill. The piece of paper that said, “In God We Trust,” was inauthentic, a violation of the state’s monopoly on printing money. A cashier called the forces of the law to alert them. It was his duty. …

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A deadly virus rages. Despite the federal government’s unequalled public health resources, the president and his advisers flail about, unable to provide coherent guidance to a frightened public. Some states rely on scientific evidence and adopt policies designed to constrain deadly contagion. Others ignore expert counsel. Florida’s governor eases life-saving restrictions against the advice of federal officials while his health department prevents medical examiners from releasing Covid-19 death data.

Circumstances force us to ask: What is the role of government today? …

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New Yorkers cannot rely on the federal government. It keeps letting us down when we need it most, even though we pay $35 billion more in taxes than we receive back in services every year. It is the worst balance of payments of any state in the union.

From the infamous 1975 Daily News headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” to the catastrophic failure to protect our borders on 9/11, to today, when President Trump and his advisers flail about in response to the virus ravaging our city and state, Washington politicians fail to preserve and protect us as they are sworn to do. …

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“We the people,” created a government “in order to form a more perfect union,” the preamble to the Constitution declares.

Every generation has been called upon to cast American democracy anew to meet the challenges of the times.

In New York, more than any other state in the union, the moment is upon us in response to the coronavirus.

In this high-turnout, presidential election year, when every legislator in New York State is on the ballot, here is a list of demands voters should make of candidates.

  1. We must tell our leaders to insist that every police department in NY State adopt a plan for implementing the 59 recommendations and 92 action items identified in The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing published in 2015. A follow on implementation guide to the report identified six themes, the first of which is Change the Culture of Policing. No New York State department has done so. …

About

Chris McNickle

#NewYorker, historian, author & believer in government & business working *together* towards a better quality of life for all.

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