Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Review: And His Lovely Wife by Connie Schultz

And His Lovely Wife by Connie Schultz is a book to gallop through and enjoy every moment, knowing that you are sure to pass the book along to your mom or your best friend -- all the while encouraging everybody you know to pick it up and read it.

I say "gallop" because the pace of the book follows the 2006 race for senate in our state of Ohio. And what an amazing race it was! I thought Sherrod Brown had no chance -- a progressive up against incumbent Mike DeWine in the Bush-voting state of Ohio? Nevertheless, I chose this race to not only follow but also join in the fun of parades, events, calling (ever so briefly) and canvassing. I didn't have a whole lot of time to give, but was happy to join in the cause -- against the dark forces of greed and corruption infesting government at most every level.

Connie Schultz gives us tales from inside the campaign trail through clear eyes that take pride in her husband's successes but refuse to relinquish their own point of view. She finds herself in a role she never expected to play -- that of "the lovely wife" at the side of the "honorable congressman" campaigning to become "distinguished senator from the state of Ohio."

She puts to rest the overblown issues concerning Paul Hackett and the Democratic primary. It was her hesitation regarding Sherrod's run for senate that caused a delay in his declaring. To this day, there are devoted internet Hackett fans who pile on Sherrod for jumping into the race. I say thank dog he did, because frankly Hackett needs some seasoning and resume building before I vote him into a high office.

This is a highly personal memoir that takes us into the mind of a writer, and an avowed feminist, who must grapple with what she can or cannot write about in her column once her husband has declared his candidacy. Suddenly, there is a huge shift in perception and relationship with her editors and co-workers. She must come to terms with stepping away from her professional career in order to further Sherrod Brown's.

Connie Schultz had just gone through some of the most amazing years of her life in which she won the Pulitzer Prize and then fell in love with and married Sherrod Brown. Both had been divorced and living as single parents for many years. Both had established themselves in careers that were fueled by their passions for justice and social compassion. This would appear to be a major merge for both players! One in which two very strong minds and voices for working people join forces for love and for the common good of all! If this were pitched as a movie, would anyone think it possible?

Along the campaign trail, Connie hears stories from Ohio citizens about the poverty in their lives, the lack of good paying jobs and decent health care and reflects upon her decision to take a leave of absence from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
I realized I was starting to feel more certain about my decision to take a leave from writing my column to work in the campaign, in part because I was still doing what I did best: listening to other people's stories, and then sharing them with the world at large. Instead of writing about them, I was giving speeches, but the goal was the same. I wanted to reach that place in people that makes them shake their head and say, "This has got to change."
Among the day to day decisions, we learn about hair cuts and wardrobe demands as well as how to select a highly intelligent and first rate campaign staff. This is a lesson in how to do it right -- and just what that means to the individual players at the heart of the it. Connie says that from the beginning
Sherrod would run as an unapologetic progressive. No tiptoeing to the middle of the road, no caving to consultants who wanted to remake him into what Sherrod called "Republican Lite." His message, not polls, would drive his campaign, Sherrod was going to take to the voters his fight for the working men and women of Ohio.
As the campaign heats up, we feel the pace quicken, the days lengthen to impossibly long hours spent driving in cars, speaking to group after group, and the constant dialing for dollars. Sherrod Brown averaged 201 fundraising calls per week from March 1st through November 5th, during which time his campaign gook in over $7 million dollars. Connie doesn't share just who Sherrod was calling, but you can get an overview here. You can see that it was individual contributions that fueled the campaign. (Note of personal transparency: I donated a small amount of money for this race.) The PAC money was more or less evenly distributed among single-issue, business and labor groups. Even so, what a waste of time and money. And all for those 60 second television spots.

Speaking of those spots, Connie gives us the inside scoop as to just how important it was for the Brown campaign to be pro-active and on top of things. Every time the DeWine attack ads came out, the Brown campaign was ready to return the volley. The more the DeWine campaign fell behind, the more desperate their attacks until eventually the pathetic "bananajuana" accusations were all the gasping Republican effort could muster.

Working on the campaign in Akron, I had no doubt this city would be voting for Sherrod. The question was always -- what about the folks in rural and more conservative counties? By sticking to his progressive viewpoint and championing the the over-taxed and under-served working and middle-class citizens, Sherrod Brown's campaign not only resonated with the voters both urban and rural, it got people excited enough to think our vote might make a difference after all.

After 16 years of Republican dominance and give-aways to wealthy individuals and corporations, the hive that is called Ohio is facing imminent collapse. A stagnant economy, polluted air and toxic landfills littering the once rolling farmlands. Ohio cities struggle to remain relevant to civilization. Schools are mandated to do the impossible with impossibly limited funding. And all around us, the effects of global warming etch themselves onto the landscapes guaranteeing a future less happy and healthy for the generations to follow.

Good luck fixing all that Sherrod! I'm not being cynical, really. It is simply obvious that we need more people like you, those who take the role of "public servant" seriously in order to make real change happen. I only hope that every progressive considering running for office reads Connie's book way ahead of time. It is a primer in staying focused, listening to the voters and responding with clear statements and practical solutions. It is a call to everybody who is working for change to not let the momentum falter as we face 2008. To make progress we need more progressives in office!

Connie Schultz is now back at the Plain Dealer, her stories appear twice a week and are now reaching a much wider audience via Creators Syndicate. She is smart, funny and never at a loss for words! This is Connie's second book, the first (highly recommended) was called Life Happens: And Other Unavoidable Truths. Sherrod Brown has also written two books: ...neither of which I've read. So I did a quick search at and found both of them for a reasonable price. More books to add to my summer reading pile!

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