Historian and lawyer Shapiro (Broken) argues in this blistering if familiar takedown that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has prioritized his own career and the Republican agenda above America’s interests. Though the “democratized” Senate of the 1960s and ’70s “met the challenge of history” by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and investigating Richard Nixon’s role in the Watergate break-in, today’s Senate Republicans are committed solely to obstructing Democrats and toeing the party line, according to Shapiro. He delves into McConnell’s efforts to stop the passage of the Affordable Care Act, prevent President Obama from appointing a Supreme Court justice after Antonin Scalia’s death, and oppose “blue state bailouts” during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Showcasing McConnell’s willingness to compromise his own beliefs and the country’s security to achieve political goals, Shapiro notes that McConnell voted to acquit former president Trump after the January 6 Capitol riot, despite declaring at the impeachment trial that Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.” Though he doesn’t break much new ground, Shapiro draws an incisive portrait of McConnell and credibly concludes that he and his fellow Republicans have broken the congressional system. This forceful critique hits home. (May)
'The Betrayal' is at once compelling and convincing. Read it and weep. And then get to work saving our once robust democracy.
Ira Shapiro has become the premier chronicler of the decline of the Senate from the 1970s to today. In The Betrayal, he takes the analysis one step further, focusing on the single most destructive senator over the past several decades Mitch McConnell. The indictment of McConnell is thorough and compelling, a must read for all who want to understand what has happened to the Senate and the entire political system.
With his new book, Ira Shapiro has completed a trilogy of some of the most thoughtful works on what has happened to the U.S. Senate during the last half century. Drawing on his years serving in and closely watching this critical institution, he sadly but correctly concludes that the Senate failed to serve as a bulwark against a rogue president who abused and corrupted his office, as the Constitution had intended. An experienced observer and gifted writer, Shapiro lays bare how too many senators have forgotten the oath they took to defend the principles of that document and allowed their country to devolve into something other than the democracy the Framers intended. The Betrayal is a work of hard truths truths that we must understand and confront if this essential institution is to return to its rightful role.
Shapiro guides the reader through the highlights—or lowlights—of the Trump presidency through the prism of the Senate, including the massive tax cuts and attempted repeal of Obamacare, the rush to jam through judges and justices, and, of course, the impeachment.... Shapiro takes us through the debacle of Trump and the pandemic—with no pushback or oversight from Senate Republicans as Trump downplayed the virus, and failed to take any of the steps that could have limited it or prevented massive deaths and incapacitation—and then, of course, the road that led to the January 6 insurrection, the second impeachment of Trump, and his second acquittal.... Of course, larger trends in society and the political system are responsible for the current cancer in the American polity, a cancer that has metastasized from Washington to the states to the public as a whole. The Republican Party was on its way to becoming a radical cult before Donald Trump came along, and before Mitch McConnell became his party’s Senate leader. But individuals can matter in shaping the environment and determining the course of events. And McConnell has mattered—in a way that ensures he will be in the top list of villains when the history of this sorry period is written. The evidence to bolster that judgment will include Ira Shapiro’s The Betrayal.
Ira Shapiro’s masterful books on the U.S. Senate have established him as an authority on the chamber and its vital role in American democracy. His latest, The Betrayal, is an absorbing account of the Senate’s failures during the Trump presidency and a stark warning to all who care about the future of this revered institution and our country.
Anticipating the possibility of a corrupt, rogue president, our Founders created a strong Senate to provide the ultimate check on abuses of executive power. In The Betrayal, Ira Shapiro holds Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate accountable for their deliberate and catastrophic failure to stop Donald Trump even when American lives and our democracy were at stake. A gripping narrative and a must read.
This strong indictment of McConnell conforms with other accounts and raises the question of whether politics is merely transactional, with the ends justifying the means, or whether the integrity of norms and rules are sacrosanct. Republicans may read Shapiro's book and admire McConnell's hardball tactics, which produced the results they sought. Democrats, while licking their wounds, may find some solace in the belief that those results were tainted by less-than-fair play. In both cases, Shapiro's book offers a skillful portrait of an important leader during a turbulent and crucial time in American history. Recommended. All readership levels.
Having previously written about the Senate at its very best, Ira Shapiro has now provided a riveting account of the Senate of 2017-21 at its very worst. Few know as much about the Senate as does Shapiro from his years as a Senate staffer and more recently as a foremost scholar of the institution. This compelling new book documents the inexcusable failure of the Senate to respond to President Donald Trump's assault on the American Constitution and his misguided policy. Shapiro convincingly attributes the Senate's default in discharging its constitutional responsibility to the Republican majority and its leaders especially Mitch McConnell. Those who care about American democracy should find this book a rewarding read.
[T]he extent of McConnell’s scorched-earth politics makes it clear why Washington has been either deadlocked or regressive. Anyone interested in social justice or the advancement of the ideals of democracy can read this chronicle and come away knowing who one of the principal political villains of the twenty-first century is.
Ira Shapiro's book is a "must read" for anyone concerned that American constitutionalism and the rule of law may be hanging by a fraying thread. For those worried about whether the "Republic will hold," look no further than the long reign of Mitch McConnell, fearlessly depicted by Shapiro. While many factors may have contributed to the dysfunction of Congress in this era, none are greater than the perfidy of the Republican leader.
Another painful account of the decline of American political discourse.
During a four-decade career in Washington, D.C., Shapiro served 12 years in various Senate staff positions, but only during the 20th century, when that institution functioned more or less as the Founders intended. He writes that its decline began during the 1990s but accelerated two decades later, when “Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus repeatedly and deliberately took actions they knew to be wrong and failed to take actions they knew to be right.” Entering the Senate in 1984, McConnell quickly established his hard-conservative reputation, abetted by the pugnacious Newt Gingrich, among others. By 2008, McConnell had risen to minority leader and proclaimed a goal of making newly elected Barack Obama a one-term president. His tactic was not to propose alternative legislation but to oppose everything. He did not have the votes to defeat the Affordable Care Act, but his denunciation of “Obamacare” as socialized medicine resonated with voters, who gave Republicans a victory in the 2010 elections. Even today, polls reveal that Americans tend to deplore “Obamacare” but approve of the Affordable Care Act. Becoming Senate majority leader in 2015, he blocked nearly all of Obama’s judicial nominees, including to the Supreme Court, resulting in a massive influx of conservative judges after the election of Donald Trump. Aware, like most Republicans, that the new president was a loose cannon but wildly popular, McConnell kept his focus on conservative interests and electable Republicans, even when this irritated Trump, who preferred sycophants. Although he received no thanks, McConnell quashed potentially embarrassing investigations and ensured that the two impeachment trials fizzled. This is an informative but deeply discouraging book; few Republicans will read it, and few Democrats will quarrel with its conclusions. In the past, Congress has endured periods of paralysis, corruption, and violence but then recovered. Readers can only hope the current breakdown is temporary.
A vivid attack on “the most partisan Senate leader in modern history” that is unlikely to change anyone’s mind.