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The Most Exclusive Club: A History of the Modern United States Senate Paperback – September 26, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Why the beginning of the 20th century as a starting point? There are probably two reasons, although Gould doesn't really develop them. For one thing, this period chronicles what Gould would call the Modern American Presidency (in his book by the same name, which goes from McKinley onward). Secondly, by starting in 1900, we see the last years of the "old" Senate that was composed of members chosen by state legislatures and the whole period of the "modern" popularly elected Senate.
Unlike the President and Supreme Court which can - to some extent - define themselves, the Senate, as Gould describes it, is more defined by its relationship with the President. Perhaps that is because so many Senators aimed for the Presidency as their ultimate goal, with the Senate as a mere stepping stone; ironically, this is not the best way to become a President; only Harding and Kennedy were able to go from the Senate to the Presidency in the 20th century, and history is littered with more ill-fated Senators (most recently, Kerry and Dole, plus all the many who weren't even nominated, like Gephardt or McCain).
Gould's history is pretty chronologically straightforward.Read more ›
This is an important book that traces the history of the Senate throughout the twentieth century and into the first years of the twenty-first. In it we see the institution evolve as differing concerns rise and subside, as crises come and go, and as personalities change and the forces of political will shift. One of the my favorite sections of the book deals with Lyndon B. Johnson, whose leadership was one of domination and browbeating on both members of his own party and on the Republicans. He accomplished much before leaving the Senate for the vice presidency in 1961, but he also left an institution in disarray.Read more ›
Gould, a historian from the University of Texas Austin, serves up many delicious quotes about the worst character traits of modern Senators. He directs particular scorn upon rampant alcoholism, naming several of the Club's most inebriated members. Gould pulls no punches to expose their other unpleasant tendencies: protectionism in trade policy; isolationism in foreign policy; racism in civil rights; and obstructionism of every kind to protect parochial interests.
Far too many Senators from the "modern" era have succeeded only in lowering the bar for their successors, judging by this latest historical account of their behavior in office. One enduring history lesson from this period: the biggest grandstanders and publicity hounds often leave the smallest mark in terms of lasting legislative legacy. Low-key Mike Mansfield, on the other hand, emerges as the most revered of the modern Senate Majority Leaders. An entire chapter is devoted to bipartisan accomplishments, in both foreign and domestic matters, achieved under the Montanan's distinguished, but quiet, leadership. Men from small Western states like Montana seem to thrive in the Senate backrooms where, like Mike Mansfield, they can have an impact on U.S. history disproportionate to their home state's population.
History buffs will find much to like in these pages. Gould's narrative draws more heavily from diaries and private correspondence than from the Congressional Record.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A masterful work through the US senate in the 20th century. The inner workings and large personalities are fascinating. Read morePublished on April 9, 2014 by Jason Bowsza
I never received this book after waiting 30 days on it. I got an empty manila folder that had been slit open with nothing inside. Read morePublished on January 4, 2012 by Angela H. Dickens
Wikipedia has made these kinds of books irrelevant. Gould writes a work based on secondary sources -- no interviews -- that hardly looks deeply at anything.Published on May 30, 2011 by J. Smallridge
I came into this book with high hopes. Gould takes a tough and incredibly underdeveloped subject, the formation of the modern senate as an institution, and engages it with gusto. Read morePublished on July 27, 2010 by J. Caplan
a few things I think would be helpful before you pick up this book -
1. "History of Modern US Senate" basically means from 1900 (about the time that direct senator... Read more
The Most Exclusive Club is one of those books for which a review should be written only to alert readers NOT to read the book. Read morePublished on January 29, 2006 by Adam Burke