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Against All Odds, by Senator Scott Brown (R, MA)
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This is not a political biography. It's a personal memoir by a political figure. If you want to know about Scott Brown's issue stances, look elsewhere. If you want to know about Scott Brown's upbringing and personal history, this is REALLY the book for you.
Brown opens the book with the story of how he got arrested for shoplifting as a teenager. The "tough-love" judge gave him the chance to turn himself around, and Brown did -- citing that court appearance as the turning point of his young life. It is the "Second Chance" cited in the subtitle of the book: "My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances." Brown then devotes several chapters to pre-arrest aspects of his upbringing -- that's the "hardship," focusing on poverty and abusive stepfathers -- and then another several chapters to post-arrest aspects of his upbringing -- that's the "fast breaks," focusing on basketball and college.
And, yes, there's a whole chapter dedicated to Brown's 1982 semi-nude appearance in Cosmopolitan magazine (entitled "The Cosmo Guy"). Besides detailing his modeling career, Brown devotes chapters to detailing his National Guard career and his law career as well.
That doesn't leave too much room for politics -- the first chapter about THAT career -- chapter 14, entitled "Running" -- begins on page 215, and is followed by three other political chapters. In other words, politics occupies only 4 out of 18 chapters in this book -- which is why we describe it as a "personal memoir" instead of a "political biography."
Brown's personal story is relevant to how he won his Senate seat in the special election of 2010. He was the regular guy, driving around in his pickup truck, running against the establishment Democrat who felt entitled to Ted Kennedy's seat. That was how he ran his campaign -- much more about identity than about policy stances. There was really only ONE policy stance that mattered -- Brown promised to be the 41st vote against ObamaCare -- which was just enough to delay it in the split Senate -- and that promise is why he got donations from all over the country.
We're reviewing this book now (January 2013) because Brown just lost his Senate seat and is about to declare his candidacy in the soon-to-be-announced special election of 2013. Brown won in 2010, in large part, because he ran in a special election (to fill out the rest of Ted Kennedy's term after Kennedy died in mid-2009. Special elections greatly favor insurgent outsider candidates like Brown -- because so few people vote in special elections, the fervency of a candidate's support matters a lot more than in a scheduled election. And Brown's supporters were very fervent indeed.
In 2012, Brown did not have that advantage -- and worse, he had the disadvantage of running on the same ballot as Barack Obama in the blue state of Massachusetts. Brown's 2012 opponent, Elizabeth Warren, got a big boost from Obama's coattails, but still only beat Brown by 53% to 46%. Now in 2013, with John Kerry resigning to become Secretary of State, Brown will participate in another special election. That means he has the advantage again, like in 2010, for another two-year seat (until the regularly scheduled election in November 2014). The Democratic field is still taking shape, but certainly the 2013 Senate special election will be a race to watch.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, January 2013
Page last edited: Jan 22, 2013