Andrew Cuomo and the Estranged Left

cuomo2Andrew Cuomo, today being re-elected Governor of New York, is admired, feared, respected, hated. In his recent book, All Things Possible, Cuomo writes:

At the end of your career, the only thing that matters is the lasting effect of your actions. Otherwise, what’s the point? You have to be willing to incur opposition if you actually want to get something meaningful done. All the difficult issues are controversial, by definition. But that’s the point of public service and what separates the statesmen from the journeymen in my opinion.

There is no reason to believe this is just idle rhetoric from a future presidential candidate. Coming in the context of eulogizing the political career of a Westchester County executive who helped him early in his career, this statement both reflects and attempts to justify Cuomo’s well-known ruthlessness. And hey, what’s wrong with being ruthless when it’s the only way to get the job done (especially in Albany)? “Be realistic—you can’t please everyone on your way to getting shit done.” That seems to be the motif of All Things Possible and the motto that drives Cuomo’s career. Keep reading →

Railways to Nowhere

railroad-1930-300x231Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White; Norton, 2011; 660 pp.

The locomotive is an essential symbol of that famous idea of American expansionism, “Manifest Destiny.” This doctrine declared that American society would stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. It was held with such religious fervor that it became the subject of allegorical works of art. Tellingly, the railroads were not viewed so reverently at the time. Indeed, they were popularly depicted as an octopus strangling the United States legal, economic, and political systems.

With Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America, Richard White has contributed a coherent and deeply thoughtful account of the rapid growth, rampant mismanagement, and swift decline of the railroads that reached the Pacific coast. White provides his reader trenchant insights to the myriad industries that found themselves intertwined, for better or worse, with the railroads. At times, he also offers criticism of the policies that facilitated the robbery of public (and Indian) lands, abuse of natural resources, and crippling of America’s economy. Keep reading →