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Driven by a desire to serve the larger community, her intellectual curiosity, and a competitive spirit, Senator Claire McCaskill harnessed her no-nonsense, unvarnished attitude to work on behalf of the people and enact real change.
Masterful in the art of compromise, Claire McCaskill knows it takes a bold, inventive approach when reaching across the aisle to forge common ground – in order to activate real results, and real change.
A formidable campaigner and opponent, McCaskill has run for political office 24 times over the course of her career, notching 22 wins. When she left the Senate in 2018, she was the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. She brings her “Midwest common sense” and straight-talking attitude to her current role as a political analyst on NBC and MSNBC.
Driven by a fierce commitment to the American values she was raised by, McCaskill’s idea of governing is to spend money wisely, punish misbehavior, and give everybody an opportunity to succeed. “Rhetoric is cheap,” she says. “Getting things done is a lot harder.” McCaskill works to diminish the cynicism and congressional gridlock that stops movement forward.
“Something is broken,” she says of American politics. “And if we don't have the strength to look in the mirror and fix it, the American people are going to grow more and more cynical.”
From an early age, McCaskill was interested in politics. Growing up in rural Missouri, with her parents both bringing their interest in politics to the dinner table, she began working on political campaigns when she a young teenager.
After graduating from law school in 1978, McCaskill focused on getting into the courtroom as a young prosecutor. As one of the few women who had ever been a felony trial lawyer in Kansas City, she prosecuted everything from arson, rape, and kidnapping to homicide. In 1982, she ran for the state House of Representatives, and won. She was one of 25 female legislators. Unabashed in the face of “business as usual” by the “good old boys,” she learned early in her career how to find and use her voice.
After being the first woman to win the office of Jackson County Prosecutor, Metropolitan Kansas City, in 1992, McCaskill made big changes, establishing one of the first Drug Courts in the country, creating a domestic violence unit, and bringing in community prosecutors to address the lack of trust towards law enforcement in many neighborhoods. Continuing her work in the courtroom, she gained a reputation as a fierce and tough-as-nails prosecutor. Her sharp and deft cross-examination skills were effective – cutting straight to the point, a skill that later served her well in hearings as a United States Senator.
McCaskill’s political career quickly took off, following her stint as prosecutor. She went on to become the second woman elected as state auditor. During her tenure, McCaskill established a long track record of rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse of power in government, beginning performance audits that did more than just make sure the money was accounted for. She also asked whether these government programs were actually working.
Her rapid rise in popularity culminated in her landmark win of the democratic nomination for governor. She remains the only person in Missouri history to unseat a sitting Governor in a primary campaign.
After her first, and narrow defeat for Governor, McCaskill took on the Republican incumbent Senator two years later. She won and remains the first and only woman ever elected to the Senate from Missouri. Her book “Plenty Ladylike” is an unapologetic account of this journey. Inside, she documents her rise from a single woman in her twenties to the state’s first female senator – all by embracing her ambition and learning from her losses. In this lively and forthright memoir, McCaskill reveals every aspect of her uphill battle to become the person she is today.
During her two terms in the Senate, McCaskill earned a reputation as a plain-spoken, no-nonsense moderate, unafraid of unscripted conversations with the press, and with a penchant for communicating directly with her constituents through Twitter and town halls. McCaskill consistently crossed the aisle to cut bipartisan deals and was frequently ranked by experts as one of the most independent Senators.
As a Democrat in a state that grows more Republican with each election cycle, McCaskill honed her instinct for thriving in the middle. Widely considered one of the most moderate centrist Democrats in the Senate, she spent her political career knitting together the middle to get results.
Unsparing in her honesty, McCaskill cuts through the clamor to the root of the issues with her strong and uninhibited voice. Her personal edict is to work harder than everyone else, show up, and show respect: “Even if you disagree,” she says, “be polite.”
Not one to hold back or mince words, the Senator is outspoken about her beliefs. Always straightforward in her delivery, McCaskill’s refreshingly frank and direct demeanor is peppered with sharp humor and practical wisdom from her decades in leadership. She sells her unscripted authenticity with style and funny anecdotes from a colorful life in politics.
Rhetoric is cheap, says McCaskill. Getting things done is harder. She knows bringing both sides of the aisle to the negotiating table is no easy feat. Through skills honed during her time as a prosecutor, she knits together opposing sides and quells contentious viewpoints – to yield impactful results.
McCaskill believes in working on behalf of the people – not for herself or her party. She knew her voters, and practiced in everyday kitchen table politics. “I’m interested in protecting the little guy,” she says. “Empowering people who don’t have the power to get things done in government. That’s the essence of it.”
McCaskill extends the hand of compromise across the aisle to quiet the divisiveness plaguing politics today – for the sake of the people and the country. “Reach outside your circle,” she says. Seek out those with whom you disagree, McCaskill counsels, to gain a new perspective.
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The Art of Getting Things Done
For Claire McCaskill, getting things done means that you cannot be extreme or puritan in your beliefs – you must be willing to compromise. In her eyes, the only way to make progress is with skillful negotiation.
To McCaskill, it’s not about which side of the aisle you come from or which party you identify with. It’s about being honest about the issues, how they impact people, and being bold enough to take risks and drop your personal interests.
But, she knows bringing both sides to the table is no easy feat. “Solving the toughest problems will not happen without tough votes,” McCaskill admits. However, “Getting things done is essential to getting rid of some of the cynicism out there,” she adds.
A master of reaching across the aisle, McCaskill knits together opposing sides and quells contentious viewpoints using negotiation skills honed during her decades in public service. . She purposefully seeks out people who think differently than her and who disagree with her. It’s essential for breaking outside of our echo chambers and becoming stronger as individuals, she says.
With frankness and wisdom, gained through her years in the public arena, McCaskill addresses the problems of Congress and Washington, and the pivotal importance of focusing on what really matters to the American people.
Empowering Women to Take Their Seat at the Table
As the only person in Missouri history to unseat a sitting governor in a primary, Claire McCaskill knows what it takes to thrive as a powerful woman inside a male-dominated environment. After decades in government, she is pleased to see that women are taking their place at the table. “That wasn’t the case when I began,” she says.
On her uphill battle to become the leader she is today, McCaskill faced defeat. But, she learned from her losses and used her failures as fuel, teaching her to keep her confidence in check and not take anything for granted.
Growing up, McCaskill’s parents protected her from the dangerous idea that women should not be ambitious, she writes in her book. Fiercely competitive, she harnessed her independence and drive to capture attention and work her way to the top. McCaskill has long embraced her willingness to speak out, and demands that other women raise their own voices.
Rousing in her defense of female ambition, she imparts wisdom gleaned from her journey to the top and speaks to the future of women in leadership.
Assessing Current Events in the Political Landscape
From her years of public service in Middle America, McCaskill is uniquely tapped into the hearts and minds of the everyday American. She naturally zeroes in on the practical details of policies and how they can help people. She also understands the struggles of working-class families and has devoted her tenure to advocating for them and working to implement policies that improve their lives.
In her signature no-nonsense style, McCaskill gives an inside look at current events and political turmoil through the eyes of a senator. She addresses the true concerns of the American people, both with candor and tenacity.
From her vantage point, McCaskill provides a sweeping view of politics over the years and dissects the problems in modern politics and the issues facing both parties. Fortified by her background as a former state auditor and prosecutor, she sheds light on issues of waste, fraud, and the abuse of power in government.
As a top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, she provides adept analysis on the security of our nation and the events on the global horizon. Drawing on her education and experience in law, she seamlessly guides audiences through these complex issues with ease.
A Conversation with Claire McCaskill
Few are as unfiltered and genuinely honest in their opinions as Senator Claire McCaskill.
Being from the heartland, she knows that the middle matters and she’s seen first-hand the issues that everyday Americans face. "Now there’s a much brighter dividing line between rural and urban,” she says.
McCaskill offers herself as a champion of the kinds of people who aren’t looking to be inspired, who want the politicians they vote for to give them some hope and understanding in these tumultuous times. "Cheer up, we're going to be fine,” she says of our country.
In this moderated discussion, the former senator addresses the issues closest to the hearts and minds of the American people. McCaskill puts audiences at ease with her straightforward analysis, offering practical solutions for finding common ground and getting things done.
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Senior Political Commentator, CNN, and Host, The Axe Files; Director, University of Chicago Institute of Politics; Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama (2009-2011)