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Every major decision governing our diverse, majority-female, and increasingly liberal country bears the stamp of the United States Senate, an institution controlled by people who are almost exclusively white, overwhelmingly male, and disproportionately conservative. Although they do not represent a majority of Americans—and will not for the foreseeable future—today’s Repub Every major decision governing our diverse, majority-female, and increasingly liberal country bears the stamp of the United States Senate, an institution controlled by people who are almost exclusively white, overwhelmingly male, and disproportionately conservative. Although they do not represent a majority of Americans—and will not for the foreseeable future—today’s Republican senators possess the power to block most legislation. Once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” the Senate has become one of the greatest threats to our democracy. How did this happen? In Kill Switch, Senate insider Adam Jentleson contends that far from reflecting the Framers’ vision, the Senate has been transformed over the decades by a tenacious minority of white conservatives. From John Calhoun in the mid-1800s to Mitch McConnell in the 2010s, their primary weapon has been the filibuster, or the requirement that most legislation secure the support of a supermajority of senators. Yet, as Jentleson reveals, the filibuster was not a feature of the original Senate and, in allowing a determined minority to gridlock the federal government, runs utterly counter to the Framers’ intent. For much of its history, the filibuster was used primarily to prevent civil rights legislation from becoming law. But more recently, Republicans have refined it into a tool for imposing their will on all issues, wielding it to thwart an increasingly progressive American majority represented by Barack Obama’s agenda and appointees. Under Donald Trump, McConnell merged the filibuster with rigid leadership structures initially forged by Lyndon Johnson, in the process surrendering the Senate’s independence and centrality, as infamously shown by its acquiescence in Trump’s impeachment trial. The result is a failed institution and a crippled democracy. Taking us into the Capitol Hill backrooms where the institution’s decline is most evident, Jentleson shows that many of the greatest challenges of our era—partisan polarization, dark money, a media culture built on manufactured outrage—converge within the Senate. Even as he charts the larger forces that have shaped the institution where he served, Jentleson offers incisive portraits of the powerful senators who laid the foundation for the modern Senate, from Calhoun to McConnell to LBJ’s mentor, Richard Russell, to the unapologetic racist Jesse Helms. An essential, revelatory investigation, Kill Switch ultimately makes clear that unless we immediately and drastically reform the Senate’s rules and practices—starting with reforming the filibuster—we face the prospect of permanent minority rule in America.


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Every major decision governing our diverse, majority-female, and increasingly liberal country bears the stamp of the United States Senate, an institution controlled by people who are almost exclusively white, overwhelmingly male, and disproportionately conservative. Although they do not represent a majority of Americans—and will not for the foreseeable future—today’s Repub Every major decision governing our diverse, majority-female, and increasingly liberal country bears the stamp of the United States Senate, an institution controlled by people who are almost exclusively white, overwhelmingly male, and disproportionately conservative. Although they do not represent a majority of Americans—and will not for the foreseeable future—today’s Republican senators possess the power to block most legislation. Once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” the Senate has become one of the greatest threats to our democracy. How did this happen? In Kill Switch, Senate insider Adam Jentleson contends that far from reflecting the Framers’ vision, the Senate has been transformed over the decades by a tenacious minority of white conservatives. From John Calhoun in the mid-1800s to Mitch McConnell in the 2010s, their primary weapon has been the filibuster, or the requirement that most legislation secure the support of a supermajority of senators. Yet, as Jentleson reveals, the filibuster was not a feature of the original Senate and, in allowing a determined minority to gridlock the federal government, runs utterly counter to the Framers’ intent. For much of its history, the filibuster was used primarily to prevent civil rights legislation from becoming law. But more recently, Republicans have refined it into a tool for imposing their will on all issues, wielding it to thwart an increasingly progressive American majority represented by Barack Obama’s agenda and appointees. Under Donald Trump, McConnell merged the filibuster with rigid leadership structures initially forged by Lyndon Johnson, in the process surrendering the Senate’s independence and centrality, as infamously shown by its acquiescence in Trump’s impeachment trial. The result is a failed institution and a crippled democracy. Taking us into the Capitol Hill backrooms where the institution’s decline is most evident, Jentleson shows that many of the greatest challenges of our era—partisan polarization, dark money, a media culture built on manufactured outrage—converge within the Senate. Even as he charts the larger forces that have shaped the institution where he served, Jentleson offers incisive portraits of the powerful senators who laid the foundation for the modern Senate, from Calhoun to McConnell to LBJ’s mentor, Richard Russell, to the unapologetic racist Jesse Helms. An essential, revelatory investigation, Kill Switch ultimately makes clear that unless we immediately and drastically reform the Senate’s rules and practices—starting with reforming the filibuster—we face the prospect of permanent minority rule in America.

30 review for Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alexander

    This is a timely, important book about the rise of an obstructionist, minority-rule Senate. Jentleson (former Deputy Chief of Staff to Majority Leader Harry Reid) does an excellent job laying out the Senate's origins as a majoritarian institution and tracing its evolution into its modern form, where a "superminority" can block the priorities of a much larger number of Americans into perpetuity. I knew much of this history in the abstract, but the author does an excellent job of connecting the ph This is a timely, important book about the rise of an obstructionist, minority-rule Senate. Jentleson (former Deputy Chief of Staff to Majority Leader Harry Reid) does an excellent job laying out the Senate's origins as a majoritarian institution and tracing its evolution into its modern form, where a "superminority" can block the priorities of a much larger number of Americans into perpetuity. I knew much of this history in the abstract, but the author does an excellent job of connecting the philosophy and leadership of historical figures (Madison, Calhoun, Russell, Reid, and McConnell, among others) to changes in the institution and ultimately how our country is governed. I learned a number of details with which I was generally unfamiliar. Modern Republicans come in for more criticism, which is correct and reasonable -- in fact, their approach to governance is much of the problem, and I view many of the Senate's current travails as symptomatic of that broader issue. But I give Jentleson significant credit for acknowledging openly the role that Democrats like Lyndon Johnson and Harry Reid played in centralizing power in the Majority Leader's office. He also effectively debunks that the Senate's current dysfunction is solely because we give small states too much power; instead, the problems are first and foremost the rules and norms of the institution. When norms and practices change, the rules need to as well. My complaints about this book are minor. It occasionally spends too long on some of the profiles of individuals who shaped the Senate and or lapses into passages that seem mostly focused on settling scores with some of the more obnoxious folks Jentleson crossed paths with on the Hill. (Don't get me wrong, I'm here all day for pointing out how terrible David Vitter is, so I enjoyed it, but these kinds of passages were distractions from the larger, more important themes of the book). The two-part structure worked well, but the chronology of the book could have been a bit tighter, as it unnecessarily dips between past and present in a few places. The solutions section could have used some further elaboration as well, but in many ways, that section is beyond the point: Jentleson is laying out a major problem and how we got there, as well as the principles we must restore if we are to move forward. Getting deeply into the weeds of solutions can be addressed in other venues. 4.5 stars, rounding up for timeliness, clear writing, and producing a book that shouldn't obviously have just been a magazine piece. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Kill Switch is well written and describes U.S. Senate processes and procedures through history. So why did I have to push myself not to put it down? Because it's intensely depressing that the U.S. Senate is so broken. Gridlock seems commonplace and it's all too easy for far right-wing senators to obstruct and kill legislation they disagree with, e.g., the gun background check bill put forward after school children and educators were senselessly massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Th Kill Switch is well written and describes U.S. Senate processes and procedures through history. So why did I have to push myself not to put it down? Because it's intensely depressing that the U.S. Senate is so broken. Gridlock seems commonplace and it's all too easy for far right-wing senators to obstruct and kill legislation they disagree with, e.g., the gun background check bill put forward after school children and educators were senselessly massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Thankfully, I did finish the book and found the recommended remedies satisfying. Let's hope our Senate leadership takes Mr. Jentleson's counsel to heart because the way the Senate has been functioning for years doesn't serve the American people.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kalyn

    An excellent tracing of the history of how, in the author's wonderful turn of phrase, "the Senate's minority protections have been inflated into tools of minority domination." There is a ton of good information here, not only about the history of the Senate's filibuster rule but also about why it has been used by the minority party. It's shocking to see how only 41 people have, due to the filibuster, total power to completely shut down all lawmaking and progress. The author has extensive knowled An excellent tracing of the history of how, in the author's wonderful turn of phrase, "the Senate's minority protections have been inflated into tools of minority domination." There is a ton of good information here, not only about the history of the Senate's filibuster rule but also about why it has been used by the minority party. It's shocking to see how only 41 people have, due to the filibuster, total power to completely shut down all lawmaking and progress. The author has extensive knowledge of the Senate's inner workings due to years as a senior aide. My one caveat here is that the author doesn't seem to recognize when his arguments don't match the historical record. For example, he claims that the Framers of the Constitution were 100% invested in majority rule, yet neglects to mention that the people eligible to vote as part of this so-called majority were white men with some wealth. Less than 29,000 people voted in the first presidential election; at the time, Virginia alone has 300,000 slaves. The Framers did not care about majority rule, so it's quite hypocritical to claim that the current state of the Senate is against what the Framers wanted. It may be undemocratic, but it was designed that way.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Caruso

    Everybody who knows me, or follows me on social media, knows that I am a political nerd. Probably, to a fault, I could be described as a political hobbyist. Likewise, anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows that my political leanings are no secret - raised in a Conservative household, I adopted the Republican points of view when I wasn't engaged, but evolved over the years as I started paying attention more to become a hardcore progressive, supporting candidates such as Bernie Sa Everybody who knows me, or follows me on social media, knows that I am a political nerd. Probably, to a fault, I could be described as a political hobbyist. Likewise, anyone who knows me or follows me on social media knows that my political leanings are no secret - raised in a Conservative household, I adopted the Republican points of view when I wasn't engaged, but evolved over the years as I started paying attention more to become a hardcore progressive, supporting candidates such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and the already iconic AOC. There's a reason I need to make the above views known, which will become clear in a moment. I had Adam Jentleson's "Kill Switch" on pre-order since July of 2020 and have been eagerly anticipating it ever since. While well-versed on how the Senate has been manipulated over the years and turned from the greatest deliberative body in the world to the place where legislation goes to die, I was looking forward to reading a detailed history on its decline written by a former staffer of former Majority Leader Harry Reid. Having just finished this extremely informative and well written novel, it's clear from a fact-based, objective point of view that only one party is responsible for the degradation of the upper chamber of Congress - Republicans. This book details how Republicans from John Calhoun to Mitch McConnell broke norms and widened divisions in our country by dog whistling to White Supremacists in order to trample the wishes of Madison and our Founders to give the smallest minority in our country - a "superminority" - a chance to decide the fate of every piece of legislation and every executive appointment that passes through the Senate. Adam Jentleson tells this true story in a compelling manner, proving he's a master storyteller as he weaves his narrative back and forth through time, explaining to the reader how our country ended up in the crappy situation we find ourselves in today. Not only that though, but Jentleson, a student of the great Harry Reid, also outlines in great detail his solutions for fixing the Senate, which nobody - especially after reading this book - can deny is fundamentally broken and doesn't represent the majority of Americans or the will of the people of this country. Is this book for everyone? Probably not. But if you like true stories, are a history nut, and/or a political nerd like myself, this is one of the more engaging historical accounts of America's upper chamber of congress out there. Written less like a textbook and more like a novel, including ending his chapters with tantalizing hooks to make you want to keep reading, Jentleson's book is a must read. I can only hope his next project details the history and evolution of the House of Representatives next. 5 out of 5 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A fairly interesting refresher on the history of the US Senate. There's quite a big jump made after Johnson's term as Majority Leader—which Jentleseon explains, but is still odd. Given that today's Republicans would rather overturn US democracy rather than lose an election, it seems unlikely that much will change with the Senate or the electoral college, but perhaps some of todays' Senate Democrats will read this and learn something. Ahem. > Johnson’s maneuvering in the summer of 1957 is rightfu A fairly interesting refresher on the history of the US Senate. There's quite a big jump made after Johnson's term as Majority Leader—which Jentleseon explains, but is still odd. Given that today's Republicans would rather overturn US democracy rather than lose an election, it seems unlikely that much will change with the Senate or the electoral college, but perhaps some of todays' Senate Democrats will read this and learn something. Ahem. > Johnson’s maneuvering in the summer of 1957 is rightfully considered a historic feat of personal persuasion, tactical brilliance, and strategic acumen. But only months before, Johnson had defeated an effort that might have rendered much of it moot, along with the gutting of the bill that resulted. By blocking the bipartisan coalition of reformers led by Nixon from reforming Rule 22 in January, Johnson preserved the South’s ability to credibly threaten the civil rights bill with a filibuster, making it necessary to gut the bill and win their cooperation > Politically, the passage of the 1957 bill completed the third step in Johnson’s plan, making him a hero to many liberals. Within the Senate, it was the accomplishment that gave him the authority to finally stand on his own, apart from Russell. He would need it. Passing the bill with southern acquiescence had allowed him to delay his inevitable break with the “Old Master.” > All other presidents combined had endured a total of eighty-two filibusters against their nominees. But from 2009 to 2013, President Obama alone faced eighty-six … under President Bill Clinton, unanimous judicial nominees—those who ended up having zero votes cast against their nomination—waited an average of 17 days to receive their confirmation votes. Under President George W. Bush, the wait was 29 days. Under President Obama, it was 125 days > he started the process of going nuclear. He brought up a vote on a nomination and asked the presiding officer, Senator Patrick Leahy, for a ruling on whether it took a supermajority to invoke cloture. Leahy ruled that it did, since that is what Senate rules stated. Reid then called a vote to overturn the ruling of the chair and it passed, 52 to 48. This method of changing Senate rules was dubbed “the Reid Precedent” by longtime Senate staffer William Dauster. The change executed by Reid and Senate Democrats that day meant that from then on, it would take only a majority to invoke cloture and end debate on most presidential nominations, excluding, for the time being, Supreme Court nominees. > In the twenty-first century, Senate Republicans have represented a minority of the population every year, despite holding as many as fifty-five seats, as they did from 2005 to 2006 > At thirty-nine million people, California’s population is as big as the twenty-two least populous states combined. > From 1957 to 1960, as we have seen, Nixon was advocating for strong civil rights bills and leading a largely successful effort to expand GOP outreach to black voters. But in 1968, Nixon returned to American political life with a very different approach, using Democrats’ support for the civil rights bills Johnson passed as president to draw racist white voters > At a moment in history when the GOP was still relatively liberal on social issues, Helms pushed it to become the culture-warring party we know today > As the Senate grew and changed, one constant remained: the role of party leader was at best a figurehead. In 1878, the New York Times noted that the Senate had no “distinctly recognized leaders.” … to deal with the challenges of memberships and workloads that continued to grow, Senate Democrats created the formal position of leader in 1920 and Republicans followed in 1925 … This was true until 1952, when Richard Russell anointed Lyndon Johnson as the Democratic leader. > Johnson exploited Democrats’ insecurity to break the seniority system, convincing the old bulls that the only way they could counter Eisenhower’s popularity and avoid being relegated to permanent minority status was to elevate some of their young stars, like Hubert Humphrey and Mike Mansfield, onto the key committees, where they could gain a national platform and serve as compelling spokespeople for the party. Russell backed the move, and the combination of his support and Johnson’s persuasive powers convinced the committee chairs to let Johnson play a role in doling out committee assignments. > Early in his tenure as leader, Johnson moved to assert control over the floor schedule and inject himself into senators’ decision-making process. His vehicle was the Democratic Policy Committee, a sleepy backwater that Johnson reimagined as a way to centralize information in the leader’s office—and information was power. > With his connections to Texas oil barons, Johnson had an enormous reservoir of funds he could distribute at will, at a time when there were few restrictions on political donations. Johnson would dispatch staffers around the country to pick up deliveries of cash, or money would make its way to him in envelopes handed over from lobbyists like Tommy Corcoran, also known as Tommy the Cork. Johnson would then apportion it to senators as he saw fit. > even after Johnson finished remaking the role of Senate leader into a position worthy of the name, it still had little formal power. In the House, the Speaker controls the all-powerful Rules Committee, which sets the terms for every bill that comes to the floor, from how long debate will last to when and under exactly what conditions the vote will take place. To this day, the Senate majority leader enjoys no such structural control. > Johnson was miserable in the Kennedy administration, openly despised by the president’s brother Bobby, and finding his Hill Country style an awkward fit in Camelot. “Power is where power goes,” Johnson liked to say, but that was not proving to be true. … he tried maintaining control of the Senate. He asked Mansfield to change the traditional rules governing the Democratic Party caucus to allow him, a member of the executive branch, to preside over the caucus, including sitting in on their closed-door strategy sessions. The deferential Mansfield agreed. When the caucus convened in its private session to elect new leaders, Johnson presided over the election of Mansfield as majority leader. And then he simply didn’t leave. Nor did he cede the leader’s chair to Mansfield. The members of the caucus were shocked, and a polite senatorial revolt ensued > Until 1980, Democratic control of Congress seemed like a fact of life. Starting in 1955, Democrats held unbroken control of the Senate for twenty-six years. The story was similar in the House, but more extreme: between 1933 and 1995 Democrats controlled the House for all but four years. With control of the majority out of sight, and plenty of points of ideological connection across the aisle, Republican senators also tended to assume Democratic control was impossible to dislodge, and focused more on exerting their influence on policy than trying to take back the majority. > The process gets its name from the chart that keeps track of what amendments are pending. It’s a piece of paper kept by clerks in the cloakroom, and the chart looks like a tree; the branches are the lines where the amendments are written in. There are a limited number of branches available on any given bill (about eleven). Filling the tree means putting the bill the leader wants the Senate to consider in one slot and placeholders in all the others. The cloakroom keeps these shell amendments close at hand for the leader to slot in when needed. Because leaders have the right of first recognition and get to speak first on any bill, it’s very difficult to stop them from filling the tree, and once it’s filled, it is extremely hard to undo. In his time as leader, Reid shattered the record for filling the tree, using the tool far more than any other leader. > Reid took control far beyond where even Johnson had been able to push it, and it changed the institution. What had once been a wide-open floor where senators could usually secure whatever votes they sought had become a place where every single vote ran through the leader. > Reagan’s nomination of Bork was an odd choice. The year before Reagan nominated him, Democrats had gained eight seats in the 1986 midterm elections and retaken control of the Senate. While it was common for the president of one party to ask a Senate controlled by the other party to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, the president usually nodded to political reality by picking a nominee the other party could live with. Asking a Democratic Senate to confirm a radical conservative like Bork was courting trouble, and Reagan got it. … Conservatives’ outrage over Bork’s defeat led to the emergence of one of the most influential institutions of the last four decades: the Federalist Society. The Society was founded in 1982 at Yale Law School, with Bork as its faculty adviser. The Federalist Society’s members saw themselves as “scrappy outsiders who were waging a lonely struggle against the pervasive liberalism of America’s law schools,” > While he lost his presidential bid to then–Texas governor George W. Bush, McCain’s campaign had elevated his corruption message, and it stuck. Backed by that momentum, he led Senate reformers to finally break McConnell’s filibuster in 2002 and the Senate passed McCain-Feingold, formally known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, by a vote of 60 to 40. President Bush reluctantly signed it into law. Undaunted, McConnell promptly took the law to court—literally. The lawsuit, McConnell v. FEC, went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which ruled for McCain in a 5-to-4 decision, upholding the major aspects of McCain-Feingold and explicitly rebuking the narrow definition of corruption advocated by McConnell. “Plaintiffs conceive of corruption too narrowly,” the majority opinion concluded. “Congress’ legitimate interest extends beyond preventing simple cash-for-votes corruption to curbing undue influence on an office-holder’s judgment, and the appearance of such influence.” > Using Gold and Gupta’s rationale, Republicans argued that it would be firmly in line with Senate tradition to overturn Rule 22 and end debate with a majority vote—in other words, to go nuclear > John Roberts sailed through on a 78-to-22 vote. A few months later, Bush nominated the hard-right Samuel Alito. When Democrats threatened to filibuster, Republicans threatened—again—to go nuclear. Democrats backed off, and Alito was confirmed, 58 to 42. The deal looks even worse zoomed out: all of Bush’s far-right nominees were confirmed, but the filibuster was left intact for Republicans to use against President Obama—which they did to devastating effect. That obstruction has already been discussed, but here it is worth noting the enormous political capital that five years of constant obstruction cost Obama before Democrats finally went nuclear in 2013 > by the 1970s leaders were overwhelmed. The tracking system allowed the Senate to process other business during a filibuster by creating separate legislative tracks where other business could move along while one track remained blocked by a filibuster. Because the Senate was able to move on to other issues, a filibuster didn’t attract as much attention as it used to. However, it still blocked the bill it was aimed at > In 1975, in response to a marathon series of filibusters by Senator James Allen—the segregationist Democrat who had taught Helms how to filibuster—reformers lowered the cloture threshold from two-thirds to three-fifths, or the sixty votes > The silent filibuster is also a result of leaders coming to rely on what are known as “unanimous consent” agreements, or UCs. … Facing enormous workloads and reliant on UCs, leaders got in the habit of canvassing their caucuses ahead of time to see if anyone objected to a bill or nomination they were considering bringing to the floor. Again, this had a benefit to the leader: it was an early-warning system that alerted them to a senator’s intent to filibuster. But again, it damaged the institution: to deter a leader from moving forward, all a senator had to do was signal their intent to filibuster. This is what is now known as placing a “hold.” > An early series of regulatory rollbacks was executed using the Congressional Review Act, which established a special category of time-limited legislation that is immune to filibusters (the CRA is not of much use to progressives, since it’s only particularly useful for undoing laws and regulations); the CRA bills passed on simple-majority votes. Republicans’ tax reform bill passed through another special procedure called budget reconciliation, which is also immune to filibusters

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christian Morse

    Great book. Lays out in fascinating detail the history of the Senate filibuster’s corroding effects on “the world’s most deliberative body.”

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Froehlich

    Which form of government is preferable -- rule by the majority or by the minority? Most Americans would say the former, so long as there were protections for minority rights. Most contemporary Republicans, however, prefer the later -- and they get it. As Adam Jentleson puts it, "Minority rule is a defining feature of our era." The fact is that GOP presidential candidates have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight elections. Though Republicans controlled the Senate for ten years since 2 Which form of government is preferable -- rule by the majority or by the minority? Most Americans would say the former, so long as there were protections for minority rights. Most contemporary Republicans, however, prefer the later -- and they get it. As Adam Jentleson puts it, "Minority rule is a defining feature of our era." The fact is that GOP presidential candidates have lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight elections. Though Republicans controlled the Senate for ten years since 2000, Senate Democrats have represented a majority of the American population every year. One indicator of this anti-democratic streak came in 2020 when the GOP cancelled Republican presidential primaries and caucuses in 22 states. Another indicator is Republican eagerness to enact legislation at the state level making it harder to vote. The filibuster is the quintessential tool of minority rule. It allows 41 senators to block the wishes of 59 colleagues, the president, and the majority of Americans. In the current era, Republicans are the filibuster's chief defenders. They operate the kill switch to prevent progressive legislation from passing. Jentleson is the former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid. His book describes in detail the history of the filibuster, and how it has been used. Though defenders cite tradition, the filibuster is not authorized by the COTUS. Instead, it evolved over two centuries into the tool it is today. One constant is that the filibuster is primarily weilded by white conservatives. Jentleson puts it this way: "From its inception to today, the filibuster has mainly served to empower a minority of predominantly white conservatives to override our democratic system when they found themselves outnumbered, blocking progress that threatened their power, their way of life, and the priorities of their wealthy benefactors, from the slaveholders of the nineteenth century to the conservative billionaires of today." Jentleson makes a strong case that the Framers intended majority rule to prevail in the Senate, with a few explicit exceptions, such as the two-thirds vote to convict on impeachment. "The Framers were realists who wrote the Constitution in the shadow of the Articles of Confederation, the disastrously ineffective system of government that allowed a minority of members of Congress to block the majority from acting. They had seen firsthand that allowing a minority to block the majority did not promote deliberation. Instead, they warned that it would create an irresistible temptation for (what Hamilton called) a 'pertinacious minority' to sabotage the majority, leading to 'contemptible compromises of the public good' and eroding majority rule, which they widely regarded as the 'first principle' of the democracy they created." Majority rule does not determine what passes in the Senate nowadays. Jentleson gives as an example a vote in 2012 on a bill to require universal background checks before buying a gun. The bill had bipartisan support and 90 percent approval in the polls. It got 55 votes. The majority was defeated by 45 senators who represented 38 percent of the population. In short, the minority rules. Isn't that how a "republic" is supposed to work? The Framers understand democracy to mean direct democracy as in Athens. They understood republic to mean what we call a democracy today, where people elect representatives who make the laws. James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, called majority rule “the republican principle.” He wrote, “In Republics, where the people govern themselves, and where, of course, the majority govern...The vital principle of Republican Government is the lex majoris partis, the will of the majority.” Thomas Jefferson believed that majority rule was “founded in common law as well as common right” and “is the natural law of every assembly of men.” TJ wrote to Madison: “It is my principle that the will of the majority should always prevail.” The first constitution of the United States was the Articles of Confederation. It contained a fatal flaw, namely that support from two-thirds of the states was required to pass tax and spending legislation. The result was gridlock. Consequently, the Framers were determined not to repeat the mistake of a supermajority requirement. At the Con-Con, proposals by southern delegates for supermajority votes for regular legislation were defeated. In Federalist #22, Hamiton rejected the arguments for a supermajority rule, Madison did likewise in Federalist #58. If a minority was allowed to block a majority, Madison writes, then “in all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.” Minority rule is exactly what filibuster fans favor, even though it is contrary to original intent. Senators representing as little as 11 percent of the population can obstruct the will of colleagues representing 89 percent of Americans. Since the filibuster is not in the COTUS, where did it come from? To make a long story short, the filibuster came into existence in the nineteenth century, "as part of white supremacists’ mission to preserve slavery, and then their efforts to strengthen it during the early twentieth century to maintain Jim Crow. (Then) the modern, post–civil rights Senate began applying the filibuster to a broadening range of bills and issues, and married the old vision of minority rule with new, rigid leadership structures." Details are in the book about the roles of John C. Calhoun and Richard Russell in creating the filibuster. The good news is that unlike some other political problems, fixing the filibuster does not require amending the COTUS. Weakening or abolishing the filibuster takes only 51 votes. It was weakened in 2013 after an historic and unprecedented number of presidential nominees had been blocked by GOP filibusters.There had been 82 Obama nominees blocked, compared to a total of 86 nominees for all previous presidents. Consequently, Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the so-called nuclear option and changed Senate rules to exempt nominees, except for the SCOTUS, from the filibuster. Negative partisanship combined with the filibuster gives conservatives a distinct advantage. Unlike Democrats, Republicans aren't trying to pass sweeping new programs for health care or other things. Under the current filibuster, the GOP can still achieve its top three priorities: approval of tax cuts, approval of conservative judicial nominees, and the ability to prevent Democratic social programs from passing. For Democrats, the filibuster is a lose, lose proposition When in the minority, they can't stop GOP tax cuts and judicial nominees. When in the majority, they can't enact social programs. Finding 41 votes to block legislation is much easier than finding 60 votes to pass it. Advantage GOP.. President Obama rightly called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic.” It clearly delayed passage of civil rights legislation for many years, and prevented an anti-lynching law for generations. It preserved the Electoral College in 1969, and continues to primarily benefit white conservatives. The plan for reform is simple: Restore the requirement for actual debate to replace the anonymous hold. This gives the minority every opportunity to state its case. Then amend the rules to provide a cloture vote after a certain number of days, using a simple majority. Hamilton and Madison were right in opposing a supermajority requirement. The argument that it promotes compromise does not apply in our era of hyper-polarization and negative partisanship. The country would benefit from a productive, functioning Senate. ###

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Finished: 11.02.2021 Genre: non-fiction Rating: A++++ Conclusion: Why the Republicans have remained in power so long? ....filibuster! Time to #EducateYourself! My Thoughts Finished: 11.02.2021 Genre: non-fiction Rating: A++++ Conclusion: Why the Republicans have remained in power so long? ....filibuster! Time to #EducateYourself! My Thoughts

  9. 4 out of 5

    Glennon Harrison

    This is an excellent book and a good choice for anyone interested in understanding how and why the Senate is so dysfunctional. The author, Adam Jentleson, has written a timely history and an excellent analysis of the filibuster and its impact on legislation. If this sounds boring, it isn’t. Highly recommended for anyone who thinks Congress is broken.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janine K

    A must read for anyone who wants to understand why the Senate is broken and what can be done to fix it. Meticulously recounts the history of the evolving iterations of the filibuster and its implications, including interactions with polarization and increasingly powerful Senate leadership roles.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    The absolute, without-a-doubt, most important book any American could read right now for the moment we're in. I learned so much. The absolute, without-a-doubt, most important book any American could read right now for the moment we're in. I learned so much.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brent Celmins

    Much of it is persuasive, and given the historical content in the book, it's very hard to come up with a good counterargument for keeping the filibuster. Adam Jentleson's invocation of James Madison's understanding of how Congress as-structured has its own moderating effect because of the size and diversity (I assume Madison meant diversity of viewpoint here) of the nation the Senate represents is particularly interesting. The book is written by a former staffer to former Democratic Senate Majori Much of it is persuasive, and given the historical content in the book, it's very hard to come up with a good counterargument for keeping the filibuster. Adam Jentleson's invocation of James Madison's understanding of how Congress as-structured has its own moderating effect because of the size and diversity (I assume Madison meant diversity of viewpoint here) of the nation the Senate represents is particularly interesting. The book is written by a former staffer to former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, so there of course is a natural political bias here. My biggest issue to date is with the Democratic hand-wringing over Republic overstepping of norms in the face of what I'm sure the Mitch McConnell's of the world simply see as political pragmatism. I wouldn't say Jentleson absolves the Dems of responsibility for the current state of the Senate (indeed, I'm sure he'd argue somewhat of a nonpartisan view here since most of what we know of as filibustering today was enabled by the Democratic party in the mid-20th century), but he definitely lays a large portion of the responsibility at the doorstep of the GOP. I'm not sure I track this as a good-faith-position. Even in 2021, the Democrats are not out-of-hand scuttling Rule 22 (the 60-vote requirement for cloture) at the start of the new session of Congress. Given the GOP's recent history, I'm losing patience with the idea that the Dems don't want to play by the actual rules of the game, but instead prefer to affect shock when the GOP takes advantage of the system that the Dems have a very big part in setting up every two years (particularly when they have control of the procedural rules). I agree in large part with Jentlesons overall thesis: the Senate is broken and has largely abdicated its responsibility. The obstructionist nature of the GOP has the pernicious side effect of leaving legislating to de facto systems like Executive Orders and bureaucratic regulatory bodies. Hey, if the legislature isn't going to do its job, somebody is. Jentleson obviously knows that the obstructionist model the GOP gleefully exhibits is actually part of their partisan philosophy. But I think he conflates negative partisanship with small "c" conservatism, and while yes there is a culture of "Own the Libs," it misses the point of what the underlying philosophy encompasses (also, negative partisanship is by no means the exclusive domain of the right), and simply attaching conservative values to the very real historical stain of American racism is not going to do much to mollify the conversation. Two things can be true: it's imperative to work toward equality for all people, but social change tends to have a destabilizing impact in the short-to-mid-term Those tremors need to shake themselves out. What social consequences are societies willing to bear, even in the name of good, just progress? Life is complicated, people. At any rate, it's a good, quick read, and a book that I found reasonably persuasive.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    I'm not going to write a long review of this one because I am sure I will find that there are better reviews among Goodreads experts (in fact I will be curious to see what the negative reviews report), but let me say a few things. This book talks about the ways that a minority in the Senate can resist majority rule. A lot of it is about the filibuster. But what really makes this shine is that it is split into two parts, one historical, talking about topics like the "previous question" motion, an I'm not going to write a long review of this one because I am sure I will find that there are better reviews among Goodreads experts (in fact I will be curious to see what the negative reviews report), but let me say a few things. This book talks about the ways that a minority in the Senate can resist majority rule. A lot of it is about the filibuster. But what really makes this shine is that it is split into two parts, one historical, talking about topics like the "previous question" motion, and, later, Senate Rule 22. Anyone who cares about American governance should read this first part, which gets us up to the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights era, and Johnson's consolidation of leadership power. It starts with the Framers and especially Madison, and works like a sledgehammer to take apart claims that Madison somehow did not believe in straight-up majority rule, drawing the obvious conclusion that efforts in the Senate to provide power to legislative minorities (other than simply offering their arguments) are essentially against the spirit of the Constitution, driven by the desire to protect the privileges of race and wealth. Then the second part takes us through Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell. I have little doubt that a fair-minded reader will come to the conclusion that Reid's further streamlining of control was not in the spirit of the Framers, and that McConnell's innovations are, essentially, perverse. Along the way we are reminded of the grotesquerie of Citizens United and McCain's heroism in his vote against the dismantling of Obamacare. Part II is loaded with Senatorial gossip (for instance, McConnell's 1999 humiliation of McCain, which likely contributed to McCain's ACA vote), and comes close to muckracking: Good stuff. Jentleson is a really good writer. Part I is about as lively as institutional history can be. Part II: Well, I read the newspapers assiduously during the last 20 years, but the author's guidance through this period reads like a novel. I had forgotten how perverse Senate hypocrisies have been and are. The book ends with a conclusion that outlines ways to reverse the anti-democratic structures in the Senate. I find it hard to believe that any Congressional Democrat, and many Republicans, will not rush to support killing the filibuster after reading Jentleson's elegant volume.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    A comprehensive breakdown of how exactly the United States Senate became a black hole sucking up the last vestiges of of our democratic culture, written by a former Senate insider. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how, for all the bromides spewed out by walking corpses such as Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley about the "sanctity" of the traditions of "the world's greatest deliberative body", the chamber is actually quite dynamic, with procedures such as the filibuster going t A comprehensive breakdown of how exactly the United States Senate became a black hole sucking up the last vestiges of of our democratic culture, written by a former Senate insider. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how, for all the bromides spewed out by walking corpses such as Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley about the "sanctity" of the traditions of "the world's greatest deliberative body", the chamber is actually quite dynamic, with procedures such as the filibuster going through multiple, radical changes-often within one decade. The book's central case, that the combination of increasing polarization, the elimination of meaningful campaign finance regulation, the centralization of power in the Senate Majority leader's office, and the rabid expansion of the use of the filibuster by Senate Republicans has turned the senate into the "Kill Switch" of American Democracy is basically irrefutable. My only real quibble with the book is that is doesn't really delve into-or consider beyond a few paragraphs dismissing its impact-what is, to my mind, the single greatest antidemocratic feature of the Senate-the malapportionment that is giving two seats to each state, ensuring an inexcusable overrepresentation of white, rural conservatives in the more powerful chamber of our bicameral legislature that no filibuster reform can solve. For American democracy to ever live up to its promises, it will eventually have to do away with the Senate entirely, most likely through a "House of Lords"-style defanging. Jentleson's a bit too in love with the chamber to seriously consider the idea, but the solutions offered at the book's end would certainly improve the situation, and as a diagnostic of the mechanisms by which the Senate strangles this country's democratic aspirations, Kill Switch more than earns its price of admission.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nick Winlund

    This is a well researched and written book by someone who was right in the middle of Senate affairs (the author Adam Jentleson was a legislative assistant to Sen. Harry Reid). The book starts out with early US history. It goes into the works of founder James Madison and then gets a bit into what politician Henry Clay did to counter both V.P. and presiding officer of the Senate John Calhoun's negative reasoning when it came to settling Senate matters. Calhoun the slave owner sympathizer took it u This is a well researched and written book by someone who was right in the middle of Senate affairs (the author Adam Jentleson was a legislative assistant to Sen. Harry Reid). The book starts out with early US history. It goes into the works of founder James Madison and then gets a bit into what politician Henry Clay did to counter both V.P. and presiding officer of the Senate John Calhoun's negative reasoning when it came to settling Senate matters. Calhoun the slave owner sympathizer took it upon himself, along with other southern Senators, to start interjecting in debates with the goal of stalling them if only for a little while. In later years it would be called the filibuster. During the time of post-Reconstruction and early Jim Crow laws in America, southern Senators would continue to invoke the filibuster in the guise of "unlimited debate" to stall or otherwise block meaningful bills from coming to a vote through simple majority. In the 1950's and 60's both the Civil Rights Act and Medicare were postponed for years due to this tactic. The author talks about how Sen. Mitch McConnell has perfected the use of Senate Rule 22's filibuster to force a supermajority vote in the Senate to quietly end discussion on bills. This is basically the power of the "superminority" as Jentleson describes it. The author follows up with some good recommendations of what to do about all of this in his conclusions at the end of his book. "Kill Switch" is highly recommended reading if you're interested in the history of the US Senate and the filibuster as Sen. McConnell has leveraged it over the years.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Pregnall

    A central thesis of Adam Jentleson's Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy is that (a) the modern filibuster is antithetical to anything the Founding Fathers would have envisioned and (b) needs to be abolished. Jentleson did not need to convince me of the latter point, since I have been on the 'abolish the filibuster' train for a while now. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jentelson's detailed history of how the filibuster arose and has changed o A central thesis of Adam Jentleson's Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy is that (a) the modern filibuster is antithetical to anything the Founding Fathers would have envisioned and (b) needs to be abolished. Jentleson did not need to convince me of the latter point, since I have been on the 'abolish the filibuster' train for a while now. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jentelson's detailed history of how the filibuster arose and has changed over time. He weaves together Senate history with Constitutional history--often making use of the primary sources themselves like the Federalist Papers--to argue point (a) with a deft hand. Beyond the filibuster, Kill Switch also focuses on the rise of Senate leadership and the centralization of procedural power underneath Senate leadership. This was an area I was less familiar with, and I learned a few new things reading Jentleson's history. I appreciated Jentelson's frankness with commenting on how the filibuster is disproportionately used to uphold white supremacy--showing, for instance, that it delayed the passage of civil rights legislation for ~60 years while being used rarely on any other type of legislation. We need this type of frankness when confronting the sclerosis that has set in on American democracy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    Someone please send a copy of this book to Senators Sinema, Manchin and any other Democrat wary of stripping the Senate of its much-heralded but harmful enshrinement of minority rule in the guise of the filibuster. Jentleson destroys the notion in "Kill Switch" that the filibuster is some manifestation of Madisonian minority rule; rather, the opposite is true. Madison, Hamilton and other of the Founding Fathers would have been aghast at the way the minority party is able to wield the "kill switc Someone please send a copy of this book to Senators Sinema, Manchin and any other Democrat wary of stripping the Senate of its much-heralded but harmful enshrinement of minority rule in the guise of the filibuster. Jentleson destroys the notion in "Kill Switch" that the filibuster is some manifestation of Madisonian minority rule; rather, the opposite is true. Madison, Hamilton and other of the Founding Fathers would have been aghast at the way the minority party is able to wield the "kill switch" on legislation in the Senate, particularly as they had witnessed the awful consequences of that decision under the Articles of Confederation. From John C. Calhoun to Richard Russell, Jentleson demonstrates that the filibuster was only ever designed to stand athwart progress, particularly with regard to civil rights. Under McConnell, the filibuster has become merely a pathway for minority obstruction. From climate change legislation to civil and voting rights to healthcare, the filibuster has largely put a stop to the kinds of reforms that America so desperately needs. Jentleson's book is crisp, interesting and extraordinarily important in a time of polarized politics. One hopes, fervently but with much pessimism, that it will one day be consigned to the dustbin of history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eileen McAllister

    Remember that old commercial where some movie star or otherwise famous person gave you an important fact and ended it with the phrase, "...and now you know"? Well Kill Switch is exactly like that commercial. Reading it should be an essential part of any high school or college American Government class. To learn how the Senate works (or doesn't) is heartbreaking at best for those of us who always wondered why nothing in government ever gets done. It's really quite simple. Nothing ever gets done b Remember that old commercial where some movie star or otherwise famous person gave you an important fact and ended it with the phrase, "...and now you know"? Well Kill Switch is exactly like that commercial. Reading it should be an essential part of any high school or college American Government class. To learn how the Senate works (or doesn't) is heartbreaking at best for those of us who always wondered why nothing in government ever gets done. It's really quite simple. Nothing ever gets done because the majority of US Senators don't really do anything. They are only in the business of fund raising for themselves to getting reelected. Anything else just gets in their way! The author has a clear understanding of the process and presents it in an engaging way to the reader. The path from revolution in the 1700s to the filibuster process in the twentieth is paved with the premise that nothing is more important than maintaining white supremacy. It was the main goal of this body throughout the 1900s and we today are paying the consequences of that decision. America needs change in the way it governs and this book points that out clearly.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Arun Murali

    I love to learn when reading these sorts of books. I first came upon the book from a NY Times briefing message that noted the recent concern over the filibuster and its impact on the current issues in the Senate. While I remember learning about the filibuster and the architecture of the Senate while in college, my memory was in need of some refreshing. This book is separated into two sections. The first section is about the history of the Senate, the likely intent and concerns of the Framers, an I love to learn when reading these sorts of books. I first came upon the book from a NY Times briefing message that noted the recent concern over the filibuster and its impact on the current issues in the Senate. While I remember learning about the filibuster and the architecture of the Senate while in college, my memory was in need of some refreshing. This book is separated into two sections. The first section is about the history of the Senate, the likely intent and concerns of the Framers, and the evolution of the modern Senate. The author does not hide his persuasions, but fairly depicts the back and forth of both parties and its impact on this incredibly significant process. As someone who has not paid detailed attention to the events of the past few decades, but followed as much as I could on the news, it was education and insightful to see how so much of where we are as a country today is possibly due to the Filibuster and the leadership of the Senate. If you are reading up on social issues right now, this is a great book to rifle right through!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Joey Nedland

    Solid book. It's an interesting genre, though: non-fiction with a persuasive thesis, meant to begin by laying out historical context and end with something of a pitch. I haven't read a ton of books in this space (politically I feel like they're all NYT/Amazon best-sellers without substance), and found the first half to be a lot like essays I used to write in college. Kind of cribbing/leveraging other sources to build up context, and ending with a pitch to end the filibuster. I wish Jentleson had Solid book. It's an interesting genre, though: non-fiction with a persuasive thesis, meant to begin by laying out historical context and end with something of a pitch. I haven't read a ton of books in this space (politically I feel like they're all NYT/Amazon best-sellers without substance), and found the first half to be a lot like essays I used to write in college. Kind of cribbing/leveraging other sources to build up context, and ending with a pitch to end the filibuster. I wish Jentleson had spent more time utilizing his own experience here; that's the whole reason I picked up the book, and instances of his own memory and recollections were few and far between. Think it's still worth reading, but you get the gist of it through his appearances on the podcast circuit, so not entirely convinced it's worth the time. Also, I listened on audio, and was absolutely NOT a fan of the narrator. Exact same voice cadence on ever sentence, sounded like a bad sports stadium announcer. Took away from the content of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stefan Ducich

    Kill Switch is a well researched and clear corrective to the mythology of the modern Senate as deliberative body. The book lays bare the small-d, anti-democratic nature of the modern Senate and walks through a series of critical developments flowing from pre-Civil War, southern, white interests through to the reign of Mitch McConnell as majority leader. It necessarily focuses on the use and abuse of the filibuster, and credibly argues for structural and procedural reforms to “fix” the senate, na Kill Switch is a well researched and clear corrective to the mythology of the modern Senate as deliberative body. The book lays bare the small-d, anti-democratic nature of the modern Senate and walks through a series of critical developments flowing from pre-Civil War, southern, white interests through to the reign of Mitch McConnell as majority leader. It necessarily focuses on the use and abuse of the filibuster, and credibly argues for structural and procedural reforms to “fix” the senate, namely by restoring actual public debate and restoring majority rule. “The plan to fix the Senate centers on the filibuster. It is about restoring balance. The institution is tilted dramatically toward the [wealthy, white, anti-choice conservative] superminority, who are able to impose their will whether or not they have a majority of the Senate. The point of reforming the filibuster is not to give one side’s policies a better chance of passing, but to give both sides’ agendas an equal chance.” This is a must read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    This is a superb history of the US Senate, focusing on the rules and procedures that obstruct legislation and that impede the basic concept of majority rule. Jentleson does an excellent job of explaining the history of the filibuster, and makes a strong case that it needs to go. While the perspective is unashamedly partisan, Jentleson backs his arguments with copious notes and statistics, and makes a compelling case that America and democracy would both be best served by major senate reforms. A This is a superb history of the US Senate, focusing on the rules and procedures that obstruct legislation and that impede the basic concept of majority rule. Jentleson does an excellent job of explaining the history of the filibuster, and makes a strong case that it needs to go. While the perspective is unashamedly partisan, Jentleson backs his arguments with copious notes and statistics, and makes a compelling case that America and democracy would both be best served by major senate reforms. A particular highlight of the book are the historical portraits of key senate figures, including Richard Russell, Strom Thurmond, Lyndon Johnston and Mitch McConnell. My only small complaint is that I found myself wanting even *more* info on Senate procedures, rules and arcana, but perhaps I can undertake that journey another time. Thank you to Adam Jentleson for his vast insight and excellent story telling, casting new light on a venerable but currently broken institution.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chase Thomas

    An eye-opening look at the history of a poorly understood rule that has become one of the, if not the single most critical impediments to progress in our nation. And it’s not just the prevailing history that has been constructed and propagated by decades of conservative politicians who have benefited from the use of the filibuster, but also the forgotten history of majoritarian rule coupled with respect for debate with the minority that has been told by the Framers down thru reformers of each ge An eye-opening look at the history of a poorly understood rule that has become one of the, if not the single most critical impediments to progress in our nation. And it’s not just the prevailing history that has been constructed and propagated by decades of conservative politicians who have benefited from the use of the filibuster, but also the forgotten history of majoritarian rule coupled with respect for debate with the minority that has been told by the Framers down thru reformers of each generation. I can’t see how anyone can finish reading this book without answering this question for themselves: would you rather cling to a tool of obstruction that has enabled a superminority of wealthy, White Americans to delay progress on everything from civil rights to gun reform, or get on with the business of leading the majority of Americans and our nation to a better future?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew LaPine

    This book delivers an insider's view of how the filibuster (via the Cloture rule) has turned the US Senate into what I would call a "product prevention group". The author was an aide to Sen. Harry Reid while Reid was the Senate Lead, and was literally in the room for much of what transpired on his watch. Most of the book is a detailed examination of the history of the filibuster, as well as of the evolution of leadership of the Senate, over the last 150 or so years - in other words, how we got he This book delivers an insider's view of how the filibuster (via the Cloture rule) has turned the US Senate into what I would call a "product prevention group". The author was an aide to Sen. Harry Reid while Reid was the Senate Lead, and was literally in the room for much of what transpired on his watch. Most of the book is a detailed examination of the history of the filibuster, as well as of the evolution of leadership of the Senate, over the last 150 or so years - in other words, how we got here. The present use of the filibuster is also reviewed. The final chapter presents a set of recommended actions to get the Senate functioning again. Context from Madison's portion of the Federalist Papers is referred to throughout. If you want to better understand how we got here, worth it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    An excellent history of an increasingly pathological form of institutional rot, written with urgency and clarity. The title refers to the filibuster, a parliamentary tool invented to uphold slavery and which today allows the Senate minority to rule over the majority and inflict governmental paralysis. My only criticisms are as follows: Jentleson’s coinage of “WWAC” (white, wealthy anti-choice conservatives) feels superfluous, as I’d wager that anyone reading this book can already identify this c An excellent history of an increasingly pathological form of institutional rot, written with urgency and clarity. The title refers to the filibuster, a parliamentary tool invented to uphold slavery and which today allows the Senate minority to rule over the majority and inflict governmental paralysis. My only criticisms are as follows: Jentleson’s coinage of “WWAC” (white, wealthy anti-choice conservatives) feels superfluous, as I’d wager that anyone reading this book can already identify this cohort as the base of the modern GOP. Additionally, some of the prescriptions in the final chapter, while considered, feel unnecessary. After reading this book it’s abundantly clear what needs to be done if we want to avert the continuing disaster unfolding before us: get rid of the kill switch.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Saling

    Informative and persuasive Very well written and easy to follow and comprehend. A knowledgeable view from the inside, and a useful cautionary tale all Americans should understand. I hope the author follows up, in articles or essays, relative to his view that bipartisanship seems out of reach because of calcified infighting. That would suggest that Biden cannot achieve one of his goals - because any Republican who votes for (and thereby confers some legitimacy upon) a Democratic proposal will figu Informative and persuasive Very well written and easy to follow and comprehend. A knowledgeable view from the inside, and a useful cautionary tale all Americans should understand. I hope the author follows up, in articles or essays, relative to his view that bipartisanship seems out of reach because of calcified infighting. That would suggest that Biden cannot achieve one of his goals - because any Republican who votes for (and thereby confers some legitimacy upon) a Democratic proposal will figuratively have his/her tongue cut out by McConnell. What a sad state of affairs.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robbie Sparrow

    A (mostly) accessible read for those interested in learning some important history of the US Senate, and understanding why things seem so dysfunctional today. What I found fascinating is that much of the “tradition” of the Senate (60 votes required to pass legislation; the Filibuster was created by the Founders to protect the Senate minority) is not true, and that these narratives were often used to justify blocking important Civil Rights legislation. The author was a previous Senate staffer for A (mostly) accessible read for those interested in learning some important history of the US Senate, and understanding why things seem so dysfunctional today. What I found fascinating is that much of the “tradition” of the Senate (60 votes required to pass legislation; the Filibuster was created by the Founders to protect the Senate minority) is not true, and that these narratives were often used to justify blocking important Civil Rights legislation. The author was a previous Senate staffer for Harry Reid, but that experience doesn’t sugarcoat the criticism the author makes of Reid’s practices when he was Senate majority leader.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Yannick M

    Great book. Not a complete history of the senate but it covers the most important parts. The rise of John Calhoun, the genius moves Johnson took to pass the civil rights acts. The way Reid strengthened the position of the majority leader and the way McConnell build on that to orchestrate a 8 year long obstruction campaign against Obama. I rarely say this, but this book is actually way too short in my opinion. I would have loved to read a lot more about senate procedure and the senate's history. Great book. Not a complete history of the senate but it covers the most important parts. The rise of John Calhoun, the genius moves Johnson took to pass the civil rights acts. The way Reid strengthened the position of the majority leader and the way McConnell build on that to orchestrate a 8 year long obstruction campaign against Obama. I rarely say this, but this book is actually way too short in my opinion. I would have loved to read a lot more about senate procedure and the senate's history. But i guess there are understandable reasons for writing the book the way it is.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo Somers

    Detailed history of the Senate that definitely isn’t taught in schools. Jentleson walks us through how the filibuster evolved as a rarely used tool to enable white supremacy to today’s current gridlock that rewards the minority for obstructionism. The detailed history of the 19th and 20th centuries can drag on a bit, but the modern history of the last 30 years read really well. This book is accessible to someone like me who only casually follows politics but wants to better understand the role of Detailed history of the Senate that definitely isn’t taught in schools. Jentleson walks us through how the filibuster evolved as a rarely used tool to enable white supremacy to today’s current gridlock that rewards the minority for obstructionism. The detailed history of the 19th and 20th centuries can drag on a bit, but the modern history of the last 30 years read really well. This book is accessible to someone like me who only casually follows politics but wants to better understand the role of the Senate in shaping public policy.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Chapman

    This is an invaluable work, particularly for this period in our history. Jentleson does an excellent job of tracing the legacy of the senate and how we have allowed it to devolve into a quagmire of disfunction. Minority rule, as is demonstrated throughout the book, was never the intent of the framers, but has become commonplace today. Jentleson’s concluding chapter is perhaps most memorable as he lays out simple, but surely effective means of restoring the body into the institution is was intend This is an invaluable work, particularly for this period in our history. Jentleson does an excellent job of tracing the legacy of the senate and how we have allowed it to devolve into a quagmire of disfunction. Minority rule, as is demonstrated throughout the book, was never the intent of the framers, but has become commonplace today. Jentleson’s concluding chapter is perhaps most memorable as he lays out simple, but surely effective means of restoring the body into the institution is was intended to be.

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