Bernard Schwartz, 1925-2024

A great friend of Democracy—and democracy—has left us.

By The Editors

Bernard Schwartz, the longtime business leader and liberal benefactor and friend of this journal, passed away on Tuesday, March 12. Bernard has been a member of the Democracy board since the journal’s inception in 2007 and our unwavering supporter.

Bernard was obviously an extraordinarily successful man, but more striking were his kindness, his genial nature, and his unfailing optimism. I would call him sometimes at very dark political moments for this country. We would chat, and he would often observe that he thought the Democrats weren’t very good at getting out their message. I expected to hear him talk about how worried he was about the future. Instead, he almost always said, “But I remain optimistic, and I’ll tell you why.” And the answer was that he had faith in democracy and in the system that had brought him such blessings. That optimism is reflected in the title he chose for his 2014 memoir: Just Say Yes.

At the time, he called himself an “angry Democrat.” Because the party had moved “too far left,” the common critique of very wealthy older men? No—quite the opposite, in fact. I interviewed him for Democracy when the book came out, and he said:

I’m angry that there are financial gurus, people whom I respect, some of them my friends, who are in the financial community, who have convinced Clinton and Bush and Obama that they cannot spend money if it creates a deficit, that we can’t afford any deficit no matter how much the investment is. People continue to be unemployed, we continue to have an infrastructure that is $1.7 trillion in deficit—we need desperately to have the money. And if we put the money in, we would make money rather than lose money.

He was laying out the same principles the last time we spoke, a few weeks ago. Among his many policy passions, infrastructure was surely the greatest, so it’s wonderful that he lived to see such a big infrastructure bill passed.

All of us at Democracy extend our deepest condolences to his family and his employees whom we’ve gotten to know over the years. The family released the following statement on Wednesday.

—Michael Tomasky


Bernard L. Schwartz passed away in his home on Tuesday, March 12, 2024, at the age of 98. He will be missed by his wife, Denise Schwartz, his two daughters, Karen Schwartz (John Paddock) and Francesca Schwartz, and four grandchildren: Jessica, Alexandra, Nicholas, and Tess. 

Mr. Schwartz was married for 63 years to Irene Zanderer Schwartz, who predeceased him in 2014. They met at City College. Consummate New Yorkers, Bernard and Irene spearheaded many cultural, medical and artistic endeavors in their city. They actively supported many New York institutions including NYU Langone Health, The New-York Historical Society, Film at Lincoln Center, The Central Park Conservancy, and THIRTEEN. 

A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Schwartz engaged in political activity with enduring commitment. He expressed his expertise in economic policy and passion for American history through lively engagement in political and civic discourse, including recent, regular op-ed contributions. 

Mr. Schwartz was known in the business world for his stellar leadership, most notably at the helm of Loral Corporation, and for bringing innovation and creativity to all his business endeavors. 

Mr. Schwartz spent his later years with his second wife, Denise Schwartz. Together, they continued to support the legacy of involvement in New York City cultural life. 

Bernard Schwartz contributed to the lives of many and will be greatly missed. His family will always admire the love, values and dedication he brought to their lives and to all he touched.

The Editors of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas are Michael Tomasky (Editor), Jack Meserve (Managing Editor), and Delphine d'Amora (Associate Editor).

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