Read as part of CBR14 Bingo: elephant. The title has an elephant in the logo mold of the symbol of the Republican Party, which is an elephant. Also, the filibuster is the elephant in the room on why our congressional body is in stasis.
Like other history/political books I read, I often judge them based on how angry they made me on each page. This one is definitely up there.
Adam Jentleson, a former staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has written a quality look on the history of the Senate…and how that history has been distorted and dumped on to create a governmental corpus whose sole function is to protect rich white men. Starting with the founding fathers views of the Senate and the hotly debated issue of how much power to give to the minority, Jentleson takes us through era-by-era as men exploit loopholes (John Calhoun), use phony titles to build bases of incredible power (Lyndon Johnson), try to unite a party in legislation to boost electability (Harry Reid) and just plain obstruct everything (Mitch McConnell).
You can be a layperson to this stuff and still get a clear picture on what Jentleson is teaching you: that minoritarian interests more often than not benefit the powerful and privileged and that minority representatives in the already imbalanced Senate. Nowhere is this more evident than the continued use of the filibuster, which contrary to popular opinion (and the haranguing of most in the Senate), was not a tool of the founders nor their intent. It’s not even used for debate. It’s used to “start a debate” but debate never occurs. It just stalls legislation and prevents it from coming to a floor vote.
At the end, Jentleson posits some potential changes for the Senate. I’m not sure I’m as optimistic as he is that there will be any coming soon. Even Democratic Senators seem to want to protect it, less because of the “sacredness” that they claim and more because it prevents them from focusing on difficult issues. But Jentleson does make the great point: it is legislatively EASY to make changes. Let’s hope the public gets wise to the game. Hopefully, this book helps.