The Man in the Middle
Sales Date: June 6, 2023
256 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: June 2023
- Published: July 2023
Thomas S. Foley, a Democratic representative from the traditionally Republican region of eastern Washington, served in Congress from 1964 to 1994. In 1989 he became the first Speaker of the US House of Representatives from a district west of Texas. His thirty years of experience as a Democrat representing a Republican-leaning district contributed to his strong commitment to bipartisanship and institution building. His speakership came to an end when the Newt Gingrich–led “Republican Revolution” ushered in an era of ideological polarization and fierce partisanship.
Tom Foley: The Man in the Middle is a political biography of this important but often overlooked figure in modern congressional history. While examining the story of Foley’s service as Speaker of the House, R. Kenton Bird and John C. Pierce place his career in the context of both his own life story and congressional politics in the late twentieth century. What emerges is the story of a leader whose strongly held political values motivated him to sustain a vibrant and responsive House of Representatives as an institution. His stance proved incompatible with the polarized and strident political environment that emerged in the early 1990s.
Bird and Pierce offer the first major study of Tom Foley’s political career in this penetrating look at a unique and transformative congressional leader who brought politicians from both sides of the aisle together to make Congress work. Foley’s tenure spanned the crucial years of transition between this bipartisan ideology of governance and the politics of the twenty-first century, between the leadership styles of Democrats Jim Wright and Tip O’Neil and that of Republican Gingrich. Foley’s defeat in 1994 ended this remarkable career of leading from the middle and marked a seismic transition in the landscape of American politics.
“In Bird and Pierce’s book on Tom Foley, they combine their perspectives as a journalist and a political scientist in their analysis of a complex, and often underappreciated, bipartisan leader in the transition of the House over his three decades of service. Their analysis of Foley’s ability to balance the demands of his more conservative constituency with his more liberal policy inclinations provides a testament to Foley’s skill as both a representative and a legislator. It is an excellent addition to the UPK series on congressional leaders.”—Bruce I. Oppenheimer, professor emeritus of political science, Vanderbilt University
“Well-paced and comprehensive, Tom Foley: The Man in the Middle achieves what few books on congressional leaders do: it explains Speaker Foley’s congressional career in light of the electoral and constituent pressures of his home district. The book provides a detailed portrait of a leader and Speaker who was at once leading a House Democratic Party that was moving to the left while representing a right-leaning district that was becoming even more so.”—Douglas B. Harris, professor of political science, Loyola University Maryland, and coauthor of Choosing the Leader: Leadership Elections in the U.S. House of Representatives
“A valuable portrait of Speaker Tom Foley, an intelligent and indefatigable defender of the constitutional role of the House of Representatives. Despite skillfully balancing his constituent needs with his leadership responsibilities, Bird and Pierce ably describe how this ‘Man in the Middle’ nevertheless fell prey to the hyperpartisanship that has overwhelmed American politics.”—John A. Lawrence, author of Arc of Power: Inside Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership, 2005–2010
Prologue and Acknowledgments
1. The Man in the Middle
2. You Can Get There from Here!
3. A Bipartisan Speaker
4. Mapping the Fifth District Landscape
5. Holding the Center
6. The Pinnacle of Power
7. Defending the Reputation of the House
8. The Perfect Storm
9. His Own Stamp?
A photo gallery follows page 128