cover image Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?

Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country?

Ira Shapiro. Rowman & Littlefield, $35 (332p) ISBN 978-1-5381-0582-5

Shapiro (The Last Great Senate), a former trade negotiator for the Clinton administration, examines headline-making political battles dating back to the 1970s in this engrossing overview of the Senate’s decline into what he characterizes as hyperpartisanship. In talking about the obstruction tactics that he says have eroded public trust in a formerly respected and reliably bipartisan institution, the author takes the impassioned tone of an anguished parent watching his beloved children fail to live up to their potential. Part one focuses on the implementation of obstructionist tactics that are now firmly entrenched and wielded with ferocity. Shapiro sees them originating with the New Right ideologues who came to power with Reagan, and reaching a nadir under Senate Majority Leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, who cared more about “partisan warfare” than the “health of the institution.” Part two looks at Trump’s first months in office, and though the assessment is bleak, it’s never hopeless. Although “procedural frailty” in Senate rules has led to a state of gridlock, the Senate could fix itself, Shapiro writes, as one of its major strengths is its agility: “Bipartisan action can happen in swift and surprising terms.” Written to inform and to exhort, Shapiro’s work is a fast-paced narrative that moderates will appreciate. (Jan.)