When Massachusetts voters chose Republican Scott Brown to fill the senate seat held by the late Democratic legend Ted Kennedy, Brown became an national celebrity — the coolest cat on the media scene since Sarah Palin, a pop phenomenon almost as nifty as sliced bread.
During his first year in Washington, Brown proved to be a steadfast Republican. But on four high-profile issues — jobs, financial reform, gays in the military, and nuclear arms control — Brown joined a handful of Republican free-thinkers who broke ranks with their reactionary party.
Those votes angered many of the Tea Baggers who supported Brown's underdog candidacy, and outraged the looniest elements of the Republican base. But the votes burnished Brown's reputation in Massachusetts, allowed him to bond meaningfully with powerful Democratic colleagues such as Representative Barney Frank and Senator John Kerry, and reconfirmed his media status as a man to watch.
Now comes Brown's memoir, Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances.
Against All Odds may not be in the same class as President Barack Obama's two autobiographical works or President Bill Clinton's memoir. Nevertheless, Brown's book is head and shoulders above most tomes published by elected officials. In terms of literary competition, Against All Odds puts to shame the dismal stuff put out by Palin and Rick Santorum.
Against All Odds is an unusual book from a senator. It is curiously apolitical in a mildly conservative way. When necessary, it makes requisite bows to balanced budgets and the need for hard work and low taxes, but those propositions are presented as religious assumptions, not policy imperatives. There is little more than a hint, if even that, that these concerns are the stuff of bitter political division in Washington — and now in Wisconsin and soon, perhaps, in a host of other states.
What Brown has written is a coming-of-age story, more grisly than Horatio Alger, not as rollicking as Huck Finn. It is the story of a boy, Brown, who grows up in the midst of four dysfunctional family situations where alcohol, physical violence, and abandonment are the norm. He escapes a life of petty crime by the skin of his teeth and finds salvation through sports and study.
No one reading this book can escape admiring Brown's journey and accomplishment, but by the same token, no one who this finishes this book will have any serious idea about issues facing Massachusetts and the nation in the months and years to come.
Against All Odds is not a campaign autobiography; it is a reelection memoir, a volume intended to keep the focus on Brown's personality and away from his politics. Brown's occasional votes in support of Democratic initiatives are situationally welcome, but they help Brown in Massachusetts more than they benefit Democrats nationally. Ninety-eight percent of the time, Brown is voting with the Republican party to favor the interests of multinational corporations and corporate executives over workers, and the rich and the affluent over the middle class and the poor. The GOP can deny it, apologists can festoon Republican policies with all manner of mind candy, but in the end the rich get richer when the Republicans are in charge and everyone else suffers.