As a young congressional aide, David Price witnessed the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from the Senate gallery. He remembers the dramatic moment when Senator Clair Engle of California, dying of a brain tumor and left unable to speak, was wheeled in to cast a decisive vote.
Price watched the South drift away from Democrats in the years afterward, and he has stuck around long enough to see his party win slices of it back as the region’s demographics have shifted.
He spent much of that time as a professor of political science at Duke University, and then as an improbable member of the very institution he studied — even writing a book on “The Congressional Experience.”
Now 81 and in the twilight of his career, Price is retiring from Congress after more than 30 years representing his North Carolina district, which includes the Research Triangle. He is one of the longest-serving lawmakers in Washington and an especially keen observer of how the place has changed.
And he does not like what he sees.
Over his time in office, Price has grown alarmed at how Congress has become nastier and more partisan — a trend he traces to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, whose “more aggressive and more militant approach” to politics, as Price put it, fundamentally transformed the institution.
“I’m appalled at the direction the Republican Party has taken,” Price said in an interview in his House office. “And I don’t, for a moment, think that the polarization is symmetrical. It’s asymmetrical.”