From a dogged political reporter, an investigation into the political education of Mitch McConnell and an argument that this powerful Senator embodies much of this country’s political dysfunction.
Based on interviews with more than seventy-five people who have worked alongside Mitch McConnell or otherwise interacted with him over the course of his career, The Cynic is both a comprehensive biography of one of this country’s most powerful politicians and a damning diagnosis of this country's eroding political will.
Tracing his rise from a pragmatic local official in Kentucky to the leader of the Republican opposition in Washington, the book tracks McConnell’s transformation from a moderate Republican who supported abortion rights and public employee unions to the embodiment of partisan obstructionism and conservative orthodoxy on Capitol Hill. Driven less by a shift in ideological conviction than by a desire to win elections and stay in power at all costs, McConnell’s transformation exemplifies the “permanent campaign” mindset that has come to dominate American government.
From his first race for local office in 1977—when the ad crew working on it nicknamed McConnell “love-me-love-me” for his insecurity and desire to please—to his fraught accommodation of the Tea Party, McConnell’s political career is a story of ideological calcification and a vital mirror for understanding this country’s own political development and what is wrought when politicians serve not at the behest of country, but at the behest of party and personal aggrandizement.
Alec MacGillis is a senior editor at TheNew Republic magazine in Washington. He previously covered national politics and domestic policy for TheWashington Post, and worked as a reporter at TheBaltimore Sun and Concord Monitor in New Hampshire, among other papers. A native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, he now resides with his family in Baltimore.
“As Alec MacGillis’s excellent new book on McConnell makes clear, the Kentucky senator’s top priority has always been not ideology but his own political advancement and survival.”
“While MacGillis writes with the passion of a convert, he isn’t some liberal hack whom Republicans can coolly dismiss. He is a thorough and well-trained reporter happily unburdened from the dispassionate constraints of he-said-she-said journalism….In ‘The Cynic,’ MacGillis constructs his profile around interviews with long-lost friends, colleagues and enemies—more than 75 of them for this slim volume—who have known the subject since their provincial early days.”
– The Washington Post
“Not many people have a clear idea of who McConnell is, or how he evolved, or why he does the things he does….This is the story Alec MacGillis tells in his concise, fast-moving ebook about McConnell, The Cynic. It’s full of things I hadn’t known….He also helps explain how someone without the obvious political gifts of speechmaking or glad-handing has stayed in national office for 30 years and is favored to be there at least six years more. And if you’d like even more first-hand evidence of what has happened to the Senate, you’ll find it here—all in less than two hours’ reading time.”
– James Fallows, TheAtlantic.com
"A fiercely critical biography (entitled, tellingly, 'The Cynic')."