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The American Senate: An Insider's History 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195367614
ISBN-10: 0195367618
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"This first-rate comprehensive study is likely to set the standard for historical scholarship on the US Senate. Chock-full of fascinating stores from insiders' perspectives, The American Senate is entertaining and engaging. The American Senate is a must read for any serious historian or political scientist, yet still accessible to the general public. Highly recommended." --CHOICE


"Whether discussing money and elections, campaign reform, the origins of the filibuster, the Senate's investigatory power or its role in ratifying treaties or debating the great issues of the day, the authors pack the narrative with wide-ranging information and anecdotes."
--Kirkus Reviews


"An excellent choice for history buffs and political scientists." --Library Journal


"A multidimensional study of the history, traditions and culture of the United States Senate... Whether discussing money and elections, campaign reform, the origins of the filibuster, the Senate's investigatory power or its role in ratifying treaties or debating the great issues of the day, the authors pack the narrative with wide-ranging information and anecdotes. A useful, engaging primer for anyone wishing to understand the politics, precedent and procedures that have shaped the Senate."--Kirkus Reviews


"The American Senate should be required reading for anyone new to the chamber: interns, staffers, even senators. There's unlikely to be another single volume quite as comprehensive anytime soon, a fact that can probably be attributed to the authors."
--Roll Call


"[A] thoroughly researched book by two veteran Senate observers . . . Baker has done a superb job of combining his deep knowledge of the Senate with that of McNeil, to complete it and illuminate the evolution of the upper chamber of Congress through the efforts of the more than 1,900 people who have served." --The Hill


About the Author


Neil MacNeil, a founding member of the PBS program Washington Week, first began to cover the Senate in 1949, and served as Time magazine's chief congressional correspondent for thirty years. He was also the author of Forge of Democracy: The House of Representatives and Dirksen: Portrait of a Public Man. He died in 2008, as this work was nearing completion.

Richard A. Baker was appointed the Senate's first official historian, a post he held from 1975 until his retirement in 2009. He produced a number of historical narratives, including 200 Notable Days: Senate Stories, 1787 to 2002 and Traditions of the United States Senate, and assisted Robert C. Byrd with The Senate, 1789-1989.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195367618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195367614
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.6 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The late correspondent Neil MacNeil began writing a book about the United States Senate after he published his look at the United States House of Representatives, "Forge of Democracy" in 1963. Fifty years after "Forge", MacNeil returns with "The American Senate", with the additional work of historian Richard Baker. Baker and MacNeil have produced a large, lively, and compulsively readable look at the Senate from it's earliest days right up to today. What began as an almost private club meeting in secret, the Senate today has dissolved into chaos and dysfunction. But it is secret no longer; the dysfunction is seen live and unfiltered on C-Span since 1984.

The US Senate is supposed to be both a counterbalance to the House and another step in the enactment of legislation. The lower house was seen as a place - unruly at times - that needed the seriousness of those upper house members to calm the fervor of the elected representatives. Senators, from the earliest days, were not elected directly from the voters; rather the Senators were "selected" from House members, state party hacks, and general rich men. It took the enactment of the 17th Amendment in 1913 to secure the election of Senators directly by the voters. Up until then, it really was a rich man's club.

But the Senate has always been the home of gifted politicians, as well as by political hacks and ne're-do-wells. Who can forget Nebraska's Republican Senator Roman Hruska, defending mediocrity - "Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you wish to move beyond the facile criticisms of the dysfunctions of the Senate so widespread in the media to really understand the Upper Body in depth, "The American Senate" is the place to begin. This is a masterful display of understanding of the workings and history of the U.S. Senate. -- Richard A. Arenberg, co-author of Defending the Filibuster"
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The United States Senate has a long history from its origins in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that crafted the bicameral Congress, its first meeting in 1789, and then continuing to the present day. In its more than two hundred years of history, the Senate has seen its share of great people and bad people, statesmanship and skulduggery, compromise and partisanship.

The book itself is essentially broken up into several sections that each look at certain aspects of Senate history. First, for example, is looking at senatorial elections. Senators were originally chosen by state legislatures, however this system fell apart in the late nineteenth century under the clouds of scandal and gridlock that led to the adoption of the seventeenth amendment and the direct election of senators. With the candidates now having to appeal directly to the people, the cost of Senate campaigns, first with newspapers and then radio and television, continued to skyrocket.

Other topics cover the Senate's often tumultuous relationships with presidents and the House of Representatives, the development of party floor leaders and the styles each majority leader brought to the Senate from Lyndon Johnson's tough whipping to Mike Mansfield's humble leadership, and the role of debate in Senate history.

The book also covers one of the Senate's most notable modern-day characteristics: the filibuster. The history of it is looked at and how the use of it and the cloture rule increased dramatically in the 1970s.

I found this book to be an excellent look at the history of the United States Senate. I would recommend this to those interested in American political history.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
MacNeil and Baker's "The American Senate" is a masterful piece of political literature. Each chapter is segmented in a way that allows the reader to follow the formation of the Senate from the beginning of our country's founding through its trials and tribulations. There are two chapters dedicated to the Senate's relationship with the Executive and shows how the power of the US Government has ebbed and flowed from the Executive to the Legislative branch and back again over time and how various presidents have handled the partisan composition of various Senates.

Aside from the most informative and interesting stories of history, this work offers excellent chapters on the formation and institutionalization of Senate leadership, living with the House of Representatives and a most fascinating discussion on the formation, original purpose and current misuse of the filibuster.

One must very interested in wanting to learn about the inner workings and details of the United States Senate to enjoy this book (obviously with a title such as "The American Senate" an interest in the Senate is a definite prerequisite). It is an easy reading, page turning book and anyone interested in the subject matter and wanting to learn more about the upper body of the United States Congress would definitely not want to miss this necessary, relevant and poignant contribution to political writings.
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