Terence Samuel

Terence Samuel is a Prospect senior correspondent and the author of The Upper House: A Journey behind the Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate, published in May by Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Twitter.

Recent Articles

The American City

Ragtime -- an innovative tableau of real and fictional events in the early 20th century -- legitimized the idea that the self-interested act can have an impact.

(Courtesy of Random House)
In the summer of 1978, I arrived in New York City saddled with all the aspirations, apprehensions, and naivete available to a 16-year-old immigrant kid with no idea who he is or where he is going. But the great advantage of New York is that it normalizes baseless ambition and impossible dreams. Ridiculous, amazing things can happen to a person there, and the miracle of those individual experiences is a central American idea. It would be another 10 years before I read Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, but when I did, there was a flash of recognition that put my own story in historical context. At the time, I was a young newspaper reporter in Philadelphia trying to find larger truths in the day-to-day lives of ordinary Philadelphians. Ragtime , with its innovative tableau of real and fictional events in the early 20th century, legitimized the idea that the personal, self-interested act and grand political action can have the same genesis and impact. And it was a reminder that none of our heated...

Byrd: Defender of the Senate.

The Senate on any given day feels like a time machine, as if you'd just walked back into an America long dead and buried. There is still a rule in the Senate that senators should not address each other directly, which is a difficult task on the days when so many of them want to call each other by name. But the result is a kind of forced majesty, because first you address the senator through the chair, and then you refer to the senator by the state he represents. "Mr. President, if the senator from the great state of West Virginia would yield ... " Senators who violated that no-direct address rule would often be taken to task by the senior senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd . Watching Byrd on the Senate floor could transport you back to the '50s -- the 1850s. Byrd came to the Senate in 1959, a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Democrat who would end up on the losing end on all the great civil-right battles of the 1960s. But what he really wanted was to be in the Senate of Webster and Clay...

What We Didn't Learn on Tuesday

Super-angry-voter syndrome is beginning to look increasingly like a fiction.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., claimed victory in the Democratic primary runoff election in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, June 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Those who were looking to Tuesday's primary election results to provide a single, seamless storyline to explain the national mood and serve as a guide to November midterms and the 2012 presidential election, will just have to keep looking. The anti-incumbent surge that is supposed to swamp President Barack Obama and his party was not much in evidence last night. The poster child for that school of political thought, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, beat back a strong challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a close fight to be the Democratic Senate nominee, and she did it with the help of a perennial incumbent, Bill Clinton. In Democratic primaries elsewhere, no one seemed safer than incumbents like Harry Reid in Nevada and Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown in California. Among Republicans, the internal debate continued between the Tea Party and the rest of the party that hews, by comparison, closer to the middle. The Tea Party candidate in Nevada won the GOP nomination to challenge Sen...

How to Defend the Senate

Democrats will get credit for their accomplishments only if they are willing to claim them as such.

Get the best political analysis faster: Follow us on Twitter. It is now so widely assumed that Democrats will take a beating at the polls in November that most of the corporate political-action-committee money donated to candidates and campaigns this year is going to Republicans. Already there is open speculation about who will replace Harry Reid as leader of what, it is assumed, will be a Democratic Senate minority. The perception that Democratic troubles run deep is reinforced by the fact that the party is threatened with the loss of not just the Democratic leader's seat but also the seats once held by the president and the vice president. Democratic candidates in both Illinois and Delaware are trailing in most polls. Democrat-held seats in North Dakota and Indiana seem hopelessly lost, and incumbents like Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold, who should not be in trouble, could find themselves in closer-than-expected re-election races. Still, the presumption of a Democratic wipeout is...

Shouldn't Obama Worry About the Midterms?

Sens. Chris Dodd and Byron Dorgan announced plans to retire this year, and some Democrats are going into panic mode over the news. Should they?

(White House/Pete Souza)
Two longtime progressive senators announced their retirement this week, and so the Democratic Panic of 2010 begins in earnest. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut faced tough re-election challenges, and both decided they were not up for the fight. Their decisions are as personal as they are political, but their departures have been presented as definitive evidence of the "perilous political environment" that Democrats will face in the fall. This frantic reaction was entirely predictable, but it's also probably unnecessary and almost certainly premature. The New York Times sounded the alarm on Tuesday: "Seldom has a week passed where a Democrat, fearful of the outcome in the midterm elections, hasn't switched parties or jumped ship entirely. But the decisions from Mr. Dodd and Mr. Dorgan, who have served a combined 46 years in the Senate, brought new attention to the party's troubles." But Democrats have not turned over a Senate seat to the Republicans since 2004...

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