Pegged to the start of the NCAA basketball tournament, the NBC Political Unit has launched “Senate Madness” – our online contest pitting history’s most consequential U.S. senators against one another. To assemble our list of 64-plus senators, we reached out to historians, as well as fellow political observers and analysts.
The exercise isn’t based on popularity; rather, it’s based on consequence. These are the senators who shaped U.S. history, whose names are affixed to important legislation and Senate buildings, and whose influence and legacy lives on. Some of these names were on the wrong side of history on major issues facing the country. After all, just as American history is complicated, so too is the history of the U.S. Senate. Note: Current senators aren’t eligible to make our list.
The interactive contest works just like an NCAA tournament bracket. Over the next few weeks, you get to vote on each match up between individual senators, and the winners advance. Our brackets are divided into different eras: 19th Century, 20th Century, Modern Day (relatively), and All of the Above (a grab-bag from different eras).
On Tuesday, in the 19th Century region, #2 seed John C. Calhoun and Thomas Hart Benton advanced. In the 20th Century region, Everett Dirksen bested Margaret Chase Smith, and William J. Fulbright moved on as well. In the Modern Era, Daniel Patrick Moynihan advanced, as did Bob Dole, and in the Mixed Era, Henry Cabot Lodge and Arthur Vandenberg moved on. See here and here for the vote totals between yesterday’s #2-vs.-#15 and #7-vs.-#10 match ups.
Today, our contests pit the #5 and #12 seeds: Sam Houston vs. Hamilton Fish, Huey Long vs. Richard Russell, Hubert Humphrey vs. Daniel Inouye, and Wayne Morse vs. George Norris. And they also pit the #4 and #13 seeds: Stephen Douglas vs. Daniel Voorhees, Joe McCarthy vs. John Sherman Cooper, Strom Thurmond vs. Ed Brooke, and Robert La Follette vs. Robert Morris.
The winners move on to the next round, and voting remains open for 24 hours so let the voting begin.