As District Attorney, Thomas E. Dewey cracked Tammany Hall, thought to be our nation’s most powerful and corrupt political machine. Yet, as Governor, Dewey, in spite of all his state’s resources could not crack the O’Connell and Big Mike Upper New York State’s machine” while saying,” the Tammany Hall Machine are pikers compared to this one (O’Connell’s and Big Mike’s).”
The story takes place in the 1960’s and 1970’s in a city in the northeast that is in economic decline. Typical of many cities throughout the nation; this city was experiencing urban blight, concentration of poverty and exodus to suburbia. It is a relic of the industrial revolution and in the past it played a major role in the industrialization and unionization of America.
It’s here where our modern day David v Goliath story begins, as a 24 year old college professor and engineer led the challenge to liberate and transform his own upstate New York community dominated by the 40 year reign of political corruption by this “machine”.
Seven months before the city election, in 1963, Paul created the Citizen Party, recruited candidates, organized a ground game, and went for the juggler. The amateur political reformers challenged the professional, braced themselves for the battle of their lives in what has become known as the hardest fought elections and reform in upstate New York history. It’s about political reformers verses political power players, as he led the city to the heights as an All American City and a model cities award program. Then he challenged by petty political power players out to destroy him and he tries to get as much as he can accomplish before they consolidate power.
With a sharp wit and a careful eye for detail, Dr. Van Buskirk shares his shrewd political observations and offers cautionary advice about the stark differences between running a political campaign and running a city. He also discusses the behind-the-scenes intrigue – including an attempt on his life – that eventually led to the Citizens Party’s demise. Although this story took place fifty years ago, the tales of corruption and political scheming, as well as the people’s rise from apathy to action, will resonate in a current era of political upheaval.
The New York Tribune stated, “It offered an inelegant lesson to amateur political reformers everywhere…..”
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