The Second American Revolution – James Patterson and Peter Kim

The Second American Revolution James Patterson
The Second American Revolution: The People's Plan for Fixing America-Before Its Too Late by James Patterson, Peter Kim
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, The Horsewoman, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, The Day America Told the Truth
Published by William Morrow & Company on September 1, 1994
Genres: Non-Fiction, Politics
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The heads of two of the biggest advertising agencies in the world pooled their resources to survey what the American people think is wrong with the country and what should be done to fix it. This book is a clarion call with no politics, no hype, no bull. Not surprisingly, the people's agenda is a lot different than the government's.

After the success of their unscientific, fearmongering, marketing-disguised-as-research book The Day America Told the Truth, James Patterson and Peter Kim reunited for a second non-fiction title using a similar premise. The Second American Revolution reveals the shocking results from another nationwide survey, showing what Americans think about issues like the economy, education, health care, crime, drugs, the deficit, AIDS, poverty, homelessness, the environment, racism, gun control, abortion, and sexual discrimination and harassment.

Beginning with the phrase “Americans are ready to fix America,” Patterson and Kim reveal their survey methodology. First, they conducted one in-person town hall meeting in an unnamed New England town. Second, they surveyed a nationally representative sample of over one thousand Americas “What issues concern you?” and “What kind of leaders do you seek?” Third, they consulted with experts to determine solutions to the problems brought up in those questions. Fourth, they then used “the professional, proven method most major corporations use to find their leaders” to determine who they think, based on all this, would be most qualified to run for President of the United States. Fifth, having developed a slate of potential leaders, they asked a sampling of Americans who they would choose for President. It’s ambitious, if misguided and the answer…well…I’ll let you decide.

The Second American Revolution ends up with a 90 potential presidential candidates, ranging from those in corporate America, politics, law, education, and more. The list—published in 1994 isn’t quite prescient, but it does contain the names of several who did eventually run for president or vice-president. Ross Perot (having already run in 1992), Howard Dean (would run in 2004), Hillary Clinton (2008, 2016), Jack Kemp (1988) Jimmy Carter (having been a one-term President from 1977-81), Dick Cheney (VP from 2000-2008), and Ralph Nader (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008).

Patterson and Kim then had their team review that list scoring them 1-10 on character, compassion, commitment, clarity, charisma, confidence, and competence, resulting in 18 finalists. That list was still too large, so they narrowed the list to seven, creating “a final slate that offers a wide variety of choices, across a spectrum of ethnic backgrounds, professional fields, political outlooks, and previous government experience.” The finalists were:

  • John Bryan. President and CEO of the Sara Lee Corporation
  • Barbara Jordan. Civil Rights activist and professor at the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs
  • Jack Kemp. Former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Ann Richards. Then-Governor of Texas.
  • Warren Rudman. Former Republican senator from New Hampshire.
  • Donna Shalala. US Secretary of Health and Human Services.
  • Roy Vagelos. President and CEO of Merck & Co.

Some things to note about that list:

  • John Bryan would never enter politics.
  • Barbara Jordan was much more than a professor and activist. Jordan was the first Black woman to serve in the Texas Senate and, through a technicality, became the first Black woman to serve as governor of any US state when, as president pro tempore of the Senate, she took over governorship when the governor and lieutenant governor were out of the state.
  • Jack Kemp was Bob Dole’s VP running mate in 1996.
  • Ann Richards was the most recent Democrat governor of Texas. She served from 1991-1995, losing the 94 election to George W. Bush.
  • Warren Rudman was a moderate Republican who eventually served as Chair of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board.
  • Donna Shalala served in the House of Representative from 2019-2021 and was also the president of University of Miami (2001-2015) and the Clinton Foundation (2015-2017).
  • Roy Vagelos is now chairman of the board for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

Patterson and Kim mailed ballots, complete with biographical sketches, to 3,000 Americans. 1,067 people responded. The winner…(drumroll, please)…was Jack Kemp. Kemp had already run for President in 1988, served in the House of Representatives from 1971-1989, and enjoyed a long NFL career before that (1957-1969). The irony is that Kemp would be tapped as Bob Dole’s running mate in the first Presidential election following this book’s release. Dole/Kemp did not win, losing in a landslide against the incumbent president, Bill Clinton (whom Patterson has gone on to write two books with). Another interesting thing to note: While Ross Perot does not appear on this list, a full 10% of respondents wrote in his name.

All of this is incredibly fascinating, but the machinations that Patterson and Kim have to go to curate the list makes it incredibly unscientific. It has a relatively low sample size of 1,069 and while there is a “clear winner” in Kemp, his status as the only person on the list to have previously run for president skews the results. Even then, Kemp received only 27.2% of the vote. Second place went to John Bryan with 16.4%; Ann Richards took third with 14.5%. Even doing something as simple as utilizing ranked-choice voting for the list of seven would have increased the survey’s validity and rigor.

The rest of the book carries superficial, simplistic, and banal discussions of now (and sometimes) then-outdated policy positions. It’s interesting as a reflection on the thoughts of 1,000 Americans but means little academically or practically. Overall, like Patterson and Kim’s previous book, The Second American Revolution is meant for shock and advertising value. It really says nothing of value while missing out predicting who would actually become President or what policy positions would be taken.

Lastly, and here’s what belies Kim and Patterson’s goal to shock: Are they really calling for a Second American Revolution to install their “scientifically” selected president? Faux-academia and hubris combine to provide readers the book equivalent of 24 hour cable news.