50 Shades of Politics

I’ve seen it all. For the past fifty years, I’ve been immersed in the thrilling kaleidoscope of American politics.It’s been an amazing journey and unexpected evolution as I passed through the shades of political coloration from blue through purple to bright red.I’ve changed along the way. As a student in the 1960s, I began my career on the left side of the political spectrum—embedded in the darkest shade of radical blue Democratic party politics.From there, as a political consultant, I progressed to another shade—purple, the result of combining blue and red to form a new color. That’s when I worked with both parties, sometimes in that extinct arena of politics formerly known as bipartisan cooperation. It was clothed in purple that I helped Bill Clinton pass landmark legislation like welfare reform, with bipartisan support.The rest of my journey—from purple to red—was largely involuntary. As Ronald Reagan once said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. It left me.” Bipartisanship stopped working as the Democrats lurched so far to the left that I didn’t recognize them or support their agenda. So, ultimately, I became a bright red Republican.Fifty years of laboring through the labyrinth of competing shades and hues of party politics gave me a unique vantage point and understanding of the perspectives and workings of both the right and the left.I understood them both and I also understood that—at that time—things were not always so black and white.Instead, there seemed to be at least 50 shades of politics.I’ve advised Democrats and Republicans, men and women, conservatives and liberals. And I’ve helped elect 19 senators and governors (11 Republicans and 8 Democrats) and the presidents or prime ministers of 12 foreign countries.I wrote this book to share some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had—the fun, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve traveled to, and the memories that stand out.It’s not a typical political memoir or an accounting of the most serious and important things I’ve ever done.Instead, this is a compilation of about one hundred stories telling what happened along the way. Some are autobiographic, others are funny examples of working in this quirky business and traveling in foreign countries. Some are controversial. Some reveal exactly what-it-was-like.This book isn’t finished yet—and neither am I. I’m still living new chapters, even as I pause to write up the old.Any story about my life would be incomplete without including a view of my wife Eileen, so there are glimpses of our lives together and our decades of collaboration and adventures. I hope you get to know her as I do. She changed my life from dull to vibrant, from flat to textured, and from black and white to brilliant color.Eileen’s contributions to this book (as well as in all our others) makes it a bit like the famous: Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. The chapters skip around. So has my life and career. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have loved living them.

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I’ve seen it all. For the past fifty years, I’ve been immersed in the thrilling kaleidoscope of American politics.It’s been an amazing journey and unexpected evolution as I passed through the shades of political coloration from blue through purple to bright red.I’ve changed along the way. As a student in the 1960s, I began my career on the left side of the political spectrum—embedded in the darkest shade of radical blue Democratic party politics.From there, as a political consultant, I progressed to another shade—purple, the result of combining blue and red to form a new color. That’s when I worked with both parties, sometimes in that extinct arena of politics formerly known as bipartisan cooperation. It was clothed in purple that I helped Bill Clinton pass landmark legislation like welfare reform, with bipartisan support.The rest of my journey—from purple to red—was largely involuntary. As Ronald Reagan once said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. It left me.” Bipartisanship stopped working as the Democrats lurched so far to the left that I didn’t recognize them or support their agenda. So, ultimately, I became a bright red Republican.Fifty years of laboring through the labyrinth of competing shades and hues of party politics gave me a unique vantage point and understanding of the perspectives and workings of both the right and the left.I understood them both and I also understood that—at that time—things were not always so black and white.Instead, there seemed to be at least 50 shades of politics.I’ve advised Democrats and Republicans, men and women, conservatives and liberals. And I’ve helped elect 19 senators and governors (11 Republicans and 8 Democrats) and the presidents or prime ministers of 12 foreign countries.I wrote this book to share some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had—the fun, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve traveled to, and the memories that stand out.It’s not a typical political memoir or an accounting of the most serious and important things I’ve ever done.Instead, this is a compilation of about one hundred stories telling what happened along the way. Some are autobiographic, others are funny examples of working in this quirky business and traveling in foreign countries. Some are controversial. Some reveal exactly what-it-was-like.This book isn’t finished yet—and neither am I. I’m still living new chapters, even as I pause to write up the old.Any story about my life would be incomplete without including a view of my wife Eileen, so there are glimpses of our lives together and our decades of collaboration and adventures. I hope you get to know her as I do. She changed my life from dull to vibrant, from flat to textured, and from black and white to brilliant color.Eileen’s contributions to this book (as well as in all our others) makes it a bit like the famous: Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. The chapters skip around. So has my life and career. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have loved living them.

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