Wed Jan 9, 2013, 01:29 PM
Redfairen (1,276 posts)
Welcome to Another Golden Era of Liberal Senators
One of the most stunning outcomes of the 2012 elections was the Democrats’ two-seat gain in the Senate. With 23 seats at risk to only ten for Republicans, Democrats were hoping simply to hold their own or keep their losses to a minimum. A gain of a single seat was almost wildly optimistic; picking up two seemingly unrealistic.
But just as important as the overall gain was the nature of the new class of Democrats sworn in to the Senate last week. With the addition of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine and Chris Murphy, and the possibility of Barney Frank joining them for a few key months and being followed by Ed Markey, the Senate has seen an infusion of liberal talent. Thanks to an impressive class of 2006 (Ben Cardin, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Claire McCaskill, Amy Klobuchar, and Sheldon Whitehouse all were reelected last fall) and the class of 2008, including Mark and Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, Michael Bennet, and Al Franken, the Senate has a core of assertive, brainy liberals greater than we have seen in decades.
The Senate in our lifetimes has had two previous golden eras for liberals. Energized by the 1958 Democratic landslide that brought in Gene McCarthy, Harrison Williams, Ed Muskie, Ernest Gruening and Phil Hart, among others, the early 1960s was a time of liberal giants. Besides this group, we had Warren Magnuson, Wayne Morse, Hubert Humphrey, Paul Douglas, Albert Gore Sr., JFK, Joe Clark, Ralph Yarborough and, added in 1964, RFK. The 1974 Watergate election brought the Senate John Culver, Dale Bumpers, Gary Hart, and Pat Leahy. They joined an all-star group that included George McGovern, Dan Inouye, Birch Bayh, Walter Mondale, Alan Cranston, Jim Abourezk and Hubert Humphrey in his second go-round in the Senate.
Ira Shapiro, in his wonderful book, The Last Great Senate, describes some of these men and the impact they had. Some, like Morse, Joe Clark, and Abourezk, were complete iconoclasts, driving Senate leaders, including their own, batty, and often doing the same with presidents. Others, like Magnuson, Mondale, Muskie, Bayh, and Bumpers, were consummate insiders, able to use their leverage in the body to accomplish policy goals consistent with their policy beliefs. Some, like Humphrey, Paul Douglas, and Phil Hart, were simply forces of nature, with the intellect, personal integrity and personal force that transcended policy differences and moved their colleagues and outsiders alike. Humphrey, whom I knew well, was a remarkable and unique human being; he would have made a marvelous president. Unlike Hubert, Phil Hart was understated and soft-spoken, but his impact on the Senate was made clear when his former colleagues named one of their three office buildings after him.
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Welcome to Another Golden Era of Liberal Senators (Original post)
|Proud Public Servant||Jan 2013||#1|