In two previous highly regarded books on the U.S. Senate, Ira Shapiro chronicled the institution from its apogee in the 1970s through its decline in the decades since. Now, Shapiro turns his gaze to how the Senate responded to the challenges posed by the Trump administration and its prospects under President Biden. The Founding Fathers gave the US Senate many functions, but it had one fundamental responsibility—its raison d’etre: to provide the check against a dangerous president who threatened our democracy. Two hundred and thirty years later, when Donald Trump, a potential authoritarian, finally reached the White House, the Senate should have served as both America’s first and last lines of defense. Instead, we had the nightmare scenario: today’s Senate, reduced through a long period of decline to a hyper-partisan, gridlocked shadow of its former self, was unable to meet its fundamental responsibility. Shapiro documents the pivotal challenges facing the Senate during the Trump administration, arguing that the body’s failure to provide leadership represents the most catastrophic failure of government in American history. The last section covers the Senate’s performance during President Biden’s first year in office and looks forward to the 2022 Senate elections and beyond.
Ira Shapiro’s forty-five year Washington career has focused on American politics and international trade. Mr. Shapiro served twelve years in senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate, working for a series of distinguished senators: Jacob Javits, Gaylord Nelson, Abraham Ribicoff, Thomas Eagleton, Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller. He served in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative during the Clinton administration, first as General Counsel and then chief negotiator with Japan and Canada, with the rank of ambassador. From 2012 to 2017, he was the chairman of the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS) and received a Commendation from the Foreign Minister of Japan. He is the author of two previous critically-acclaimed books about the Senate: The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis (2012) and Broken: Can the Senate Save Itself and the Country? (2018). His articles have appeared in The New York Times, U.S. Today, cnn.com, The Hill, Bloomberg, The Daily Caller, Newsmax, and several local newspapers around the country. Ira currently resides in Bethesda, Maryland.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The End of the Last Great Senate
Chapter 2: McConnell’s Bitter Harvest
Chapter 3: Handling Trump
Chapter 4: Saving Brett Kavanaugh
Chapter 5: To Impeach or Not to Impeach
Chapter 6: The Sham Trial
Chapter 7: A Politicized Pandemic
Chapter 8: The Banana Republic Confirmation
Chapter 9: The Big Lie
Chapter 10: Acquitting the Insurrectionist
Chapter 11: Good Faith, Bad Faith
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.
[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.
Another painful account of the decline of American political discourse.... 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[.]”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'The Betrayal' is at once compelling and convincing. Read it and weep. And then get to work saving our once robust democracy.
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.
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.
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.
4/4/22, Miami University CAS News: This article covered Ira Shapiro's 2022 Darrell West Lecture on the book.
5/6/22, The New Republic: An excerpt from the book was posted.
5/18/22, The Last Word (MSNBC): Ira Shapiro spoke with Lawrence O'Donnell about the book.
5/17/22, Jefferson Exchange Show on Jefferson Public Radio (Oregon, NPR): Ira Shapiro appeared on this show to discuss the book.
5/19/22, Politics and Prose: Ira Shapiro discussed the book with John Podesta at the bookstore.
5/24/22, Leonard Lopate at Large/WBAI Radio (New York): Ira Shapiro joined Leonard Lopate to talk about the book.
5/23/22, The Tom Sumner Program on WFOV-FM Michigan: Ira Shapiro was interviewed about the book.
5/25/22, Tavis Smiley Show/KBLA-AM Los Angeles: Ira Shapiro joined Tavis Smiley to talk about the book.
5/30/22, Grid: Ira Shapiro and the book were featured in this article.
6/1/22, Parallax Views with J.G. Michael: Ira Shapiro talked about the book on the show.
6/9/22, Politics War Room Podcast with James Carville and Al Hunt: Ira Shapiro joined James and Al to talk about the book and how Mitch McConnell has contributed to the destruction of the Senate as an institution.
6/16/22, Who What Why Podcast: Ira Shapiro talks with Jeff Schechtman about the book.
6/18/22, Media Path Podcast: Ira Shapiro discussed the book with Fritz Coleman and Louise Palanker.
6/26/22, Savvy: Ira Shapiro joined Christina Rivera to talk about the book.
6/27/22, Democracy Nerd Podcast: Ira Shapiro discussed themes from the book with host Justin Kempf.
6/27/22, IdeaSphere: Ira Shapiro talked about the book with Guy Rathbun.
7/24/22, Robert Reich - Blog: This book was recommended by the former Secretary of Labor (in the Clinton Administration).
9/13/22, Moment Magazine: Ira Shapiro talked about the book with Rabbi Eric Yoffie.
9/25/22, Salon: Ira Shapiro penned a piece on Mitch McConnell’s legacy.
10/24/22, The Ford School, University of Michigan: Ira Shapiro was in conversation with CQ Roll Call’s Chris Marquette about the book.
1/4/23, The Hill: Ira Shapiro penned a piece on the importance of the Senate to the 118th Congress.
10/11/23, WSIU Public Radio (Southern Illinois): Ira Shapiro talked about his last two books with host John Shaw.