Lewis L. Gould is the Eugene C. Barker Centennial Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Texas and the author of The Modern American Presidency, Reform and Regulation, and Grand Old Party. He lives in Austin, Texas.
The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, which created the U.S. Senate to be a deliberative body that would check both presidential power abuse and the bedlam inherent in the House of Representatives, would be disheartened by its current sad state, says Gould (history, emeritus, Univ. of Texas; Grand Old Party). The author presents a revealing account showing that over the last century the Senate has been more a repressive and regressive legislative body than an engine for social progress. Gould does discuss notable exceptions when the Senate assumed an activist role, as it did with Wilson's New Freedom, Roosevelt's New Deal, and Johnson's Great Society and in response to Nixon's Watergate abuses. He also demonstrates that during the 1950s and 1960s a bloc of Southern Democrats, led by Richard Russell and Strom Thurmond, were obsessed with denying civil rights to African Americans. The book includes narratives about famous and lesser-known Senate leaders and discusses frankly the enduring "boys-will-be-boys" mentality that encouraged alcoholism and womanizing. Gould concludes that donation grubbing and the political bias of its members have diminished the current Senate. This informed survey is recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The history of the U.S. Senate in the 20th century is one of evolution from a genteel debating society into a collection of bitterly partisan politicians, half of them seeming to eye runs for the White House as they joust for media coverage. As Gould, a historian at the University of Texas (Grand Old Party) relates this disheartening history, a number of themes recur, including periodic battles over the filibuster (especially its use by Southern Democrats defending Jim Crow from the 1930s to the 1960s) and too many senators' chronic alcoholism, sexism and egomania. Inevitably, the book focuses on shifting institutional mores (such as the emergence of year-round fund-raising and campaigning after the advent of television) rather than the substance of policy debates. Gould's assessment of the Senate's historical performance is relatively bleak, noting that, for "protracted periods," it functioned "as a force to genuinely impede the nation's vitality and evolution." And he offers jaundiced assessments of the legacies of some men routinely described as giants of the Senate, such as Robert La Follette, Robert Taft and especially Richard Russell, the much admired six-term senator from Georgia, whose political gifts were deployed in the service of virulent racism. 20 b&w photos. Agent, Jim Hornfischer. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.