Rutgers University Press

The Good Senator

By February 10, 2012May 22nd, 2018No Comments

Five years ago today in Chicago, President Obama announced his candidacy for President.¬† I watched the announcement on television from Senator Edward W. Brooke’s hotel room at the Watergate, where he was preparing for a reading that afternoon at Politics and Prose to promote his autobiography Bridging the Divide, which had just been published by Rutgers University Press, my employer at the time. Brooke was the first African American popularly elected to the Senate in 1966 and served for two terms, until 1979; he was a Republican before the parties became so polarized, a political climate that is inconceivable now. Brooke’s signal accomplishments were for fair housing and women’s rights – and he challenged President Nixon on important issues, organizing Republican support to defeat two Supreme Court appointees in 1970 before Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun, who later wrote Roe v. Wade. When Barry Goldwater was the Republican nominee for President in 1964, Brooke staunchly opposed him as well, and that modern brand of conservatism which sounds all too familiar:

To me, theirs was a pseudoconservatism, sharply at odds with our party’s honored past. Their racial views would have appalled Abraham Lincoln. Their contempt for our environment would have disgusted Theodore Roosevelt. Their blind hatred of every federal program was a slap at every veteran who had used the GI Bill to go to college or buy a house. -Bridging the Divide

When we worked together, Brooke was a spry 87 and we made our way up the Northeast Corridor during a cold and snowy week for events in Philadelphia, New Brunswick, New York, and Boston. He’s 92 now and lives in Miami with his wonderful wife Anne! He’s only a few years younger than Senator Harry F. Byrd, 97, the oldest living former Senator, who served as a Democrat from West Virginia from 1965-1983. (Photo by David Wang-Iverson.)

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