In this deadly earnest, sound-bite declaration (expanded from a series of lectures he gave earlier this year at Yale),...


"JOURNEY OF PURPOSE: Reflections on the Presidency, Multiculturalism, and Third Parties"

In this deadly earnest, sound-bite declaration (expanded from a series of lectures he gave earlier this year at Yale), Tsongas offers ""a political philosophy for the turn of the century,"" which sounds very like a call to arms against the electoral duopoly held by Democrats and Republicans. A persevering player in the domestic political game, the author (Heading Home, 1984, etc.) first reflects on the lymphoma (a treatable though not curable form of cancer) that led him, at age 43, to step down as the junior US senator from Massachusetts and his 1992 run for nomination as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate. While this issues-oriented campaign fell short for lack of cash, charisma, and ballot-box support, Tsongas has continued to ponder its lessons. Working mainly through the Concord Coalition (a bipartisan advocacy group), he has also attempted to drum up grassroots enthusiasm for his centrist agenda--an amalgam of fiscal conservatism and liberal social policies. Chiding fellow Democrats for their knee-jerk antipathy to American business, the author makes a persuasive case for his economics platform, which features anti-protectionist, budget-balancing, and deficit-reduction planks that will leave tax-and-spend progressives cold. By contrast, his message on multiculturalism and other social issues is mixed, if not garbled. While espousing inclusiveness and meritocracy, Tsongas whales away at the left's favorite target (white heterosexual males); at best, moreover, his acceptance of affirmative action is ambivalent. Back on firmer ground, the author argues that, if the Democrats and Republicans don't supply voters with the moderate choices they demand in the marketplace of ideas, a third party is inevitable. By no coincidence, Tsongas offers a seven-point set of principles that could inform just such an enterprise. Political talking points whose ""lite"" touch betrays their oral origins.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996


Page Count: 128

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995