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The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda Paperback – September 3, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When senators think about running for president, they write books like The Conscience of a Liberal. Indeed, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota thought about pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000, but ultimately backed off. Unfortunately, his death in an October 2002 plane crash ended both a promising political career and all speculation about where it might lead.

The first part of the book explains Wellstone's unlikely ascension to the Senate (he was once a college professor), and some of his campaign war stories are fun reading for political junkies. One of the most amusing passages describes how he once nearly clocked New York Republican Alfonse D'Amato over a disagreement: "When the train reached the Senate chamber, I jumped out and lunged forward, intending to catch D'Amato and deck him. My body was shaking with uncontrollable anger." Another senator held him back, and Wellstone calmed down.

The bulk of The Conscience of a Liberal, however, is given over to laying out a political agenda that includes universal health care, reversing welfare reforms, prekindergarten education, raising the minimum wage, and campaign-finance reform. He closes with a call for a new politics: "This is not a conservative America.... There is a huge leadership void in this country that the Democratic Party, emboldened by political courage and a commitment to the issues that made our party great, can fill." Sadly, one of the politicians who helped fill that void is now gone himself. Still, his ideas live on. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Minnesota Senator Wellstone opens this memoir with his attendance at the funeral service of archconservative Barry Goldwater. Wellstone was there because as a boy he had read Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. Paradoxically, he credits his admiration for Goldwater's political integrity with providing the moral basis for his own liberalism. And he is very liberal, indeed. After reading this lucid and personal book, however, even those of opposite views would find it hard not to admire him. Wellstone presents two propositions. The first, that integrity in politics is essential, will be widely applauded. The second, that liberal political values reflect mainstream American values, will receive a mixed reception. At the core of this account is Wellstone's desire to mobilize voters to organize around issues he believes important to the country's well-being. The litany of societal problems addressed is broad and includes health care, education and testing, economic justice (welfare reform) and campaign finance reform. About each, Wellstone provides cogent and thought-provoking facts, figures and expert opinions, as well as personal stories that humanize the damage and loss of human potential he sees flowing from current public policies. He also offers solutions consistent with his view that government is capable of making a positive difference. The book is, for the most part, pleasantly free of partisan invective; his criticisms are generally oblique. Wellstone's 1996 Senate campaign adds drama. The only senator facing reelection who voted against welfare reform, he survived an extremely negative campaign, even by modern standards. Many readers will be glad he did. (May 22)Forecast: With millions of voters disappointed that their man barely (and, some would argue, unfairly) lost the recent presidential election, Wellstone offers reassurance that liberal values are still alive and well in Washington. As he tours New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, along with his home state, the senator will surely attract die-hard liberal readers with his concise but thoughtful tome.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081664179X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816641796
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Having said that let me rave about this book.
Beth DeRoos
Most of what he says in this book has come to fruition, at least partially.
zack Armstrong
I was never really interested in politics before I read this book.
Angelien

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Angelien on September 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
I was never really interested in politics before I read this book. But I've admired and respected Paul Wellstone for a long time, and after his death I was very interested in what he had done in his political life before I became aware of politics (I didn't start really listening until a couple years ago, just before I grew old enough to vote). This book caught my attention and got me interested in the political world and how the laws that are made in Washington DC affect people like me and those around me here in Minnesota. It really does make me want to be active in supporting change for the better. Paul Wellstone will always be a personal hero of mine.
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48 of 59 people found the following review helpful By J. Callahan on October 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The other morning on one of the Sunday chat shows, a so-called "objective" political pundit referred to the late Senator as "a far-out liberal" with "extreme ideas." Is this how far we have fallen under Bush II? Is it "far-out" to believe that people are more important than profits? Is it "extreme" to feel that the American government should belong to the American people and not multinational corporations? Is the belief that, to quote populist commentator Jim Hightower, "everybody does better when everybody does better" just a naive, "liberal" pipe dream? Wellstone understood, as perhaps no other U.S. Senator does, that the main reason why the 2000 presidential election was so close was that voters accurately failed to discern much difference between centrist Bush and centrist Gore. Senator Wellstone was different, God bless him. Not only did he actually believe what he said, he acted on those beliefs, opinion polls be damned. The greatest tribute those of us who still believe in a just and fair American can pay to him is not just to read this book--although it's a start. We must now organize and run for office ourselves in order to restore democratic ideals to the Democratic party and to the White House. May this be Paul Wellstone's legacy.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Matthew D. Lowe on May 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is nice to know that some decency still exists among all of the greed and power in Washington. Paul Wellstone has made it a priority to fight for those who can't afford to hire a lobbyist. This book demonstrates his uphill fight against the money and the power brokers in DC. Even if you disagree with Wellstone politically, it would be difficult not to welcome his honest and sincere attitude towards the process. This is a must read for any progressive.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
I met Paul Wellstone about 4 years ago when he was stumping for Bill Bradley, and he was magnetic. Luckily, this wonderful book he left behind is such an impassioned call to arms that it's more liable to get you active in your community than it is to make you sad that Paul died. I know for me, it has already encouraged me to start attending "meet-ups" for the 2004 presidential race. (Speaking of which, Wellstone drops a few hints in this book that he wanted to make the run himself, which DOES make it sad that he never got the chance.)
This book is not perfect. Wellstone uses WAY too many exclamation points, and his writing style doesn't exactly sing. Also, as in far too many other political books, there are too many statistics and figures and a little too much inside baseball.
Yet I found something bracing -- something that made me literally stop and think -- in nearly every chapter, sometimes even every couple of pages. And the personal parts of the book (when Wellstone does something almost no politician EVER does, and writes about true and very real personal difficulties in his life) are downright searing. I've repeatedly read the portion about Wellstone's father's slow death and I cry every time. I found so much to unexpectedly relate to in this book; it was a revelation.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Justin Matthew Fay on January 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a longtime Wellstone supporter, I was truly devastated at his passing this last fall. I had purchased this book quite a bit earlier, and, regrettably, never pulled it off the shelf to read until after the Senator's death. "The Conscience of a Liberal" provides a detailed description of the author's life and how his political ideals were shaped by his own personal history. It is rare in American politics today to find a politician who actually believes what he says; and rarer still to find one who backs up his words with action. Paul Wellstone did both, and we will forever miss him. Reading this book will give you a short glimpse into the heart and mind of a genuine "Mr. Smith."
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. McAndrew on July 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
The late Paul Wellstone puts together a great story of how he became who he is...a liberal and proud of it. So often these days, we hear the word liberal used in the pejorative sense. That doesn't have to be. I prefer to think of liberals as "free thinkers," who don't happen to march in line like Limbaugh and Hannity...and don't forget Jessie Helms.
Wellstone was a great and HONEST politician. This world of Bill Clintons and Jack Ryans needs more honest politicians with the enthusiastic spirit of Wellstone!
TWO THUMBS UP!!
Jeffrey McAndrew
author of "Our Brown-Eyed Boy"
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book that begins where he was in college and how he and his wife met and how they became the activists they were and what a real progressive is or at least should be. And that being a liberal is nothing to be ashamed of! Sadly the Senator died in 2002 just before he would have been reelected to the Senate. Some of us still believe it wasn't the innocent accident some say that killed him when the plane he was on went down.

Having said that let me rave about this book. I go to Chapter 9 titled A Winning Progressive Politics, where the author notes 'A progressive politics is a winning politics, as long as it is not organized in a way that is top-down and elitist. It must respect the capacity of ordinary citizens and focus on workaday majority issues. I have never understood arguments for the need for politicians to 'move to the center' to get elected. What is the operational definition of 'the center'? If what is meant is that you need to have more votes than your opponent, then I am all for being in the center. But this is too obvious. If what is meant by the center is the dominant mood of the populace -- the issues that are important issues to Americans and what they hope for--then I would again argue for the need to occupy the center. A politics that is not sensitive to the concerns and circumstance of peoples lives, a politics that does not speak to include people is an intellectually arrogant politics that deserves to fail.'

Page 206 of the same chapter 'Clearly, there is a forgotten American majority. It is precisely this America that our politics today fails to serve fully and fairly.
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