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A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It

by Arlen Specter & Charles Robbins

Pub Date: April 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-250-00368-3
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Senator Specter, swept out of office in 2010, takes a hard look at what happened—and at the collapse, as he sees it, of civil politics.

The cannibals in question are mainstream Republicans—and, to a lesser extent, leftist Democrats who work against moderates on their side of the aisle. By Specter’s (Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate, 2008, etc.) account, “Eating or defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism.” The Tea Party uprising was a feeding frenzy of ideological purification, as “compromise” became a curse word and anyone who did not toe the party line became an enemy. In that climate, it became impossible, Specter writes, to cross the aisle, both for him as a moderate Republican-turned-Democrat and for his friend Joe Lieberman, who narrowly won a seat as an independent after losing the Democratic primary in Connecticut. Specter writes of the agonizing process that forced him to leave the Republican Party and become, for a short time, a Democrat on Capitol Hill. Interestingly, he also confesses to having crossed the party line years ago to become a Republican in the first place, having once been a Democrat early in his political career. The author sees much to lament in the loss of collegiality and the hardening of ideological lines in the modern Congress, especially because Congress has its work cut out for it in curbing the excesses of an activist Supreme Court that is busily awarding personhood to corporations and otherwise corrupting the political process. Specter closes on a note of hopefulness that centers on the victory of Lisa Murkowski over Tea Party intransigence in Alaska, though he also warns that “political extremism…poses a new, or amplified, threat to the United States”—and he doesn’t just mean al-Qaeda.

A highly readable battle cry from the moderate center—and timely, given the tenor of politics today.