Good Ol' Days

A Lot Changed in Kennedy's Time

In 2003, faced with a standoff between Democrats who filibustered to block confirmation of federal judges and Republicans who threatened a "nuclear option," Ted Kennedy brought historian Robert A. Caro into the Senate to talk about the founding fathers' vanishing vision of civil legislative debate, The New York Times reports. Kennedy's despair over recent partisan rancor underscored the sea change he saw over his 46 years in the Senate. Politically, the collegial atmosphere of his early days vanished as centrism dwindled in both parties and senators spent more time fundraising and less making friends on the other side of the aisle. Filibusters moved from one in 1963, after Kennedy joined, to about 50 last year. On the upside, Senate diversity increased too; in Kennedy's time, the number of women senators rose from 2 to 17. The space also changed physically, as overstuffed couches were eliminated and lighting was brightened for TV cameras, producing what former Wyoming Republican Alan Simpson called "peacock syndrome," as Senators began dying their hair.