The Last Great Senate

Author: Ira Shapiro

The Last Great Senate (Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis

I very much enjoyed reading “The Last Great Senate” by Ira Shapiro at a variety of levels. The book not only provides Mr. Shapiro’s excellent analysis of why he considers the Senate of the Carter years to be deserving of the title’s accolade, but drills down to provide the reader with a thorough understanding of the complex issues faced during that time as well as a detailed, one-by-one breakout of the individual Senators who, in sum, were greater than their parts.

While I am no position to measure whether or not it was truly the last great Senate, it is discomforting to realize, in comparison to today’s Senate/Congress, what can be accomplished when leaders are able to put country before politics. It is a further reminder of Chicago Mayor, Richard J. Daley’s famous quote that “good government is good politics” and the sad reality that our political world of today works in the perverse, reverse.

In many ways, it is the subtitle’s recognition of the role of courage and statesmanship that sets apart the problem solvers of yesterday from the problem avoiders of today. Mr. Shapiro offers many specific examples of Senators who were willing to put aside personal beliefs and political aspirations to achieve legislative results for the better of the country. Among other examples, Mr. Shapiro explains how Minority Leader Howard Baker put a potential run for the presidency at risk by helping forge a treaty related to the unwinding of our control of the Panama Canal.

I follow politics at a fairly high level and I am at a loss to recall recent events in our political world in which I felt that our leaders were demonstrating that same level of courage and statesmanship, particularly in light of the many difficult issues our country currently faces.

Here’s a challenge to visitors to the Third Party 101 website: send me an email to   with recent (let’s say the last 4 years) examples of courage and/or statesmanship in your political travels so I can post them.

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