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Lion of the Senate: When Ted Kennedy Rallied the Democrats in a GOP Congress

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“The best book I have read about the inner dynamics of the United States Senate.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin Two top domestic policy advisors to Senator Edward Kennedy offer an insider’s view of several remarkable years when Kennedy fought to preserve the Democratic mission against Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and a Republican majority in both houses—a story that has sp “The best book I have read about the inner dynamics of the United States Senate.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin Two top domestic policy advisors to Senator Edward Kennedy offer an insider’s view of several remarkable years when Kennedy fought to preserve the Democratic mission against Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and a Republican majority in both houses—a story that has special resonance now as a resurgent Republican right once again controls Congress. In November 1994 the election swept a new breed of Republicans into control of the United States Congress. Led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republicans were determined to enact a conservative agenda that would reshape American government. Had it not been for Ted Kennedy, they would have succeeded. In 1994, after defending his Senate seat against challenger Mitt Romney, Kennedy came back to Washington to find Democrats, including President Clinton, demoralized and leaning toward “compromises” that would adopt much of the Republican agenda. Undaunted, Kennedy pressed the agenda he would have championed had his party held power. He rallied the Democrats. He reached across the aisle to craft and pass key progressive legislation. And he stopped the Gingrich revolution in its tracks. Nick Littlefield and David Nexon tell this story of a bare-knuckled and sometimes hilarious fight in the United States Senate. It is a political lesson for all time.


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“The best book I have read about the inner dynamics of the United States Senate.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin Two top domestic policy advisors to Senator Edward Kennedy offer an insider’s view of several remarkable years when Kennedy fought to preserve the Democratic mission against Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and a Republican majority in both houses—a story that has sp “The best book I have read about the inner dynamics of the United States Senate.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin Two top domestic policy advisors to Senator Edward Kennedy offer an insider’s view of several remarkable years when Kennedy fought to preserve the Democratic mission against Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and a Republican majority in both houses—a story that has special resonance now as a resurgent Republican right once again controls Congress. In November 1994 the election swept a new breed of Republicans into control of the United States Congress. Led by Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republicans were determined to enact a conservative agenda that would reshape American government. Had it not been for Ted Kennedy, they would have succeeded. In 1994, after defending his Senate seat against challenger Mitt Romney, Kennedy came back to Washington to find Democrats, including President Clinton, demoralized and leaning toward “compromises” that would adopt much of the Republican agenda. Undaunted, Kennedy pressed the agenda he would have championed had his party held power. He rallied the Democrats. He reached across the aisle to craft and pass key progressive legislation. And he stopped the Gingrich revolution in its tracks. Nick Littlefield and David Nexon tell this story of a bare-knuckled and sometimes hilarious fight in the United States Senate. It is a political lesson for all time.

30 review for Lion of the Senate: When Ted Kennedy Rallied the Democrats in a GOP Congress

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brian Willis

    A political blueprint for how to enact and achieve legislative victories while being the minority party. Given the current political climate, with Trump about to assume office with a GOP controlled Congress, the same issues that were soundly defeated during the Gingrich Contract with America are rearing their ugly heads again. Privatization of Medicare and Medicaid. Massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Opposition to any legislation that enables the government to addres A political blueprint for how to enact and achieve legislative victories while being the minority party. Given the current political climate, with Trump about to assume office with a GOP controlled Congress, the same issues that were soundly defeated during the Gingrich Contract with America are rearing their ugly heads again. Privatization of Medicare and Medicaid. Massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Opposition to any legislation that enables the government to address systematic issues that suppress the health and wealth of the middle class and the most vulnerable amongst us. Between 1994-2000, Ted Kennedy led the Democratic opposition to the folly of the Contract with America. He wasn't a titular head of that opposition, he was simply its most reasonable and seasoned member. He did things that today's politicians scorn: he compromised and cajoled, proposed legislation he was personally and emotionally invested in, he gave the GOP some of what it wanted, not because he felt powerless in the minority, but because it was leverage to achieve some of this own concerns. This book demonstrates lessons that both parties would do well to take to heart: how to oppose legislation without personal bitterness and obstinacy to the point of lunacy. How to accomplish good without the perfect. How to make personal friends of your public enemies and work with them in a collegial way and to give them credit when they do something constructive. To play politics but also to acknowledge the truth when your opponents have it on their side. All of these things will be in short supply in the short term with a Trump Presidency, but hopefully this book will prove to be once and future history for the sake of our country. Surprisingly fluent read even while dipping into the minutiae of the Senate rules, this is one of the most important books on the workings of the US Senate.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    As a lover of history and politics I enjoyed the detailed oriented approach about the specific health bills and sparring over Newt Gingrich's Republican Revolution. Mr. Littlefield wrote a cogent work that details the extreme lengths of Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution. In particular, this work made me remember how conservative President Clinton could be and how much support he needed from the liberal wing of the Democrats. It also details how big a role personal relationships play in As a lover of history and politics I enjoyed the detailed oriented approach about the specific health bills and sparring over Newt Gingrich's Republican Revolution. Mr. Littlefield wrote a cogent work that details the extreme lengths of Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution. In particular, this work made me remember how conservative President Clinton could be and how much support he needed from the liberal wing of the Democrats. It also details how big a role personal relationships play in getting bipartisan suppport for legislation and the effect humility van have.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brad Rice

    A man devoted to his country and the oppressed. This slice of Kennedy's life is the time period in the Senate when he was in the minority, but convinced the minority was in the right. However, he worked to bridge the aisle and work along side his opponents on many important issues. His desire to bring health care to the people was a driving force in his life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris Casey

    Given my love of history and politics, I would have found this book interesting in any circumstance. But this was much more than a political biography or history to me, as it covers pretty much exactly the timespan of my own time working in the U.S. Senate. I joined Sen. Kennedy's staff in the Spring of '92, and worked for him for three years before moving over to the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees where I worked for five more years before I left the Hill in 2000. This book, written by Given my love of history and politics, I would have found this book interesting in any circumstance. But this was much more than a political biography or history to me, as it covers pretty much exactly the timespan of my own time working in the U.S. Senate. I joined Sen. Kennedy's staff in the Spring of '92, and worked for him for three years before moving over to the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees where I worked for five more years before I left the Hill in 2000. This book, written by the Chief of Staff and Senior Health Policy Advisor to the Senate Labor Committee during that time, covers the time span from the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 with their 'Contract with America', and Kennedy's success at rallying Democrats and advancing Democratic priorities including new Health Care protections such as portability, pre-existing conditions, and privacy, an increase of the minimum wage, and expanding insurance coverage for children. It's a front row seat, watching a master politician and legislator use all of the tools of the trade to advance new laws against seemingly insurmountable odds. I wish I had understood and been aware of even half of what I learned from this book while I was there. But I especially enjoyed reading about the work of former colleagues, and being able to recall specific efforts that my own work contributed to, especially the mention of the website we built to solicit stories from students about how the threatened cuts to their student loans would impact them. This book is a really great read for any interested in politics, even if you weren't an underling working there yourself at the time :-)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    The parallels to today's Congress are both striking and depressing. Clearly, the partisanship is getting worse, and the legislative accomplishments can barely be called accomplishments vis a vis the GOP led Congress profiled in this book. Ted Kennedy understood the operating levers and how to effectively use them. He also had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. These are both refreshing contrasts to our current Senate. I thought the book was well written and informative, but it wasn't on The parallels to today's Congress are both striking and depressing. Clearly, the partisanship is getting worse, and the legislative accomplishments can barely be called accomplishments vis a vis the GOP led Congress profiled in this book. Ted Kennedy understood the operating levers and how to effectively use them. He also had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. These are both refreshing contrasts to our current Senate. I thought the book was well written and informative, but it wasn't one of those books that I just had to read the next paragraph, page, chapter, etc.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Norm

    Note: my brother was the co-author. This is a great read for anyone who wants to know how Congress functions (or doesn't...). It presents an fascinating picture of how Kennedy could build support for bills that most of the opposition would resist, and of the intense effort required in creating that support. It does not present much insight into Kennedy's personality, but portrays his intense dedication, careful planning, and Herculean labor in moving his cause forward.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim Blessing

    While this book had several interesting parts, it was just too detailed into the nitty gritty for my taste. The book explained how Senator Kennedy grab the initiative from the Gingrich Republicans after the 1994 election and blocked their program, while passing a minimum wage increase and health care initiatives.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Geo Forman

    A bit too much of a Kennedy love fest but I should have expected that. The book did bring to light how the senate works with all its quirky rules. It also was nostalgic to relive the government shut downs during Gingrich's confrontation with Clinton. All in all, an okay book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Muddy Waters

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott Filter

  11. 4 out of 5

    Myron Feld

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  13. 4 out of 5

    barbara a. brown

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tracee Marie

  15. 4 out of 5

    Blake Ridenour

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill Boerst

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Meehan

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Goldberg

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Erwin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kimrey Rhinehardt

  21. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lars Kenseth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elliott

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Westbrook

  26. 4 out of 5

    leonard skaist

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dean Knickerbocker

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kay Weeks

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kimberli Roessing-Anderson

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ben

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