Views & Perspectives | A new book about the life and leadership of Bob Michel



“Robert H. Michel: Leading the Republican House Minority” was just published through the auspices of Frank Mackaman who directs the work of The Dirksen Congressional Center. The book includes a number of authors who researched and wrote about the extraordinary career of one of Central Illinois’ and our country’s outstanding and longest serving leaders.

To quote from the book jacket, “As incredible as it might seem, there was a time when partisan competition produced consensus and good public policy. At the center of it all, for four decades was Robert H. Michel, the longest-serving Republican leader in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. In this book, top congressional scholars, historians and political scientists provide a compelling picture of Bob Michel and the congressional politics of the day. Marshaling a wealth of biographical, historical and political detail, they describe Michel’s House of Representatives and how the institution became what it is now. During the 38 years that Michel represented Illinois’ 18th Congressional District (Jan. 3, 1957 – Jan. 3, 1995), the last 14 as Republican leader in the House, his party was in the minority.

“Drawing on archival material that captures politics in the making, the authors of this volume show how Michel made the most of that minority status. They write about his legislative efforts, as with President Reagan‘s tax cuts and President George H.W. Bush’s North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

“The resulting friction between Michel’s leadership on the national stage and his responsibilities to constituents back home almost cost him reelection in 1982, forcing a change in his ‘home style.’ Their essays also cover Michel’s strategies for House minority leadership, his party’s proposals to reform the House, and retirement one election before Republicans became the House majority party –– the result of a generational and ideology shift to a more combative style of politics practiced by Michel’s successor, Newt Gingrich.

“An innovative approach to biography, with its examination of Bob Michel’s career from a variety of angles, this volume offers both an unusually nuanced portrait and a uniquely informed perspective on politics in the latter half of the twentieth century.”

For those of you who are hoping for a more balanced bipartisan approach to our politics today, this book illustrates many, many examples of relationships built around important issues that were resolved with civil debate and collegiality that served our country very well. For those of you who have lived through and witnessed the past three decades of men and women who served in Washington with the idea of working together and solving our nation’s problem, I recommend this book as a remembrance of an era long gone but not forgotten.

This book offers hope that the type of bipartisan leadership exhibited day in and day out by Bob Michel’s service if read by current leaders will give our citizens and our country the vision, courage and leadership to move America forward in solving some of our most pressing issues.

I encourage everyone to read this book. It can be ordered through Amazon or “I Know You Like a Book” in Peoria Heights.

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