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

Liveright: Norton. Jan. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781631497773. $26.95. POL SCI
Jentleson’s informative and timely work chronicles the history of the Senate and delves into the inadequacies of this legislative body. Given that this book is written by a former deputy chief of staff to Senator Harry Reid, one might throw out the hypothesis due to partisan lenses. But Jentleson, public affairs director at Democracy Forward, takes care to trace the key points in the development of minority rule as well as legislative tools associated with it, from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to the 2018 midterms. Unlike a bill, readers will not get lost within the legislative process in this comprehensive yet accessible account. What emerges is a picture of how the filibuster and cloture rules and the centralization of power within the political party leader’s hands create the tools that Senator Mitch McConnell has effectively used during his time as Senate Majority Leader. However, Jentleson deftly explains how both parties are at fault in terms of quashing majority viewpoints. In the prolog, the author suggests practical ways the Senate can be reformed to prevent and undo gridlock.
VERDICT A startling read that will provoke tough questions about governance, this is highly recommended to all interested in government reform.
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