How did the esteemed upper chamber of the United States Congress descend into the dysfunctional dumpster fire known to us today as the United States Senate? Time and time again, we hear the Senate is “the world’s greatest deliberative body” and how the Framers intended it to be “the cooling saucer” that chills the hot passions of the House. Republican and Democratic senators alike have used such rhetoric to defend the institution in the name of collaboration, consensus building and bipartisanship. 

This, however, is a far cry from the Senate’s actual function as an insurmountable roadblock to legislation — where bills come to die — and not much else gets done. It is infuriating to hear the bold new ideas our elected officials have for our country and know that they will never even come to a vote on the Senate Floor because of its outdated rules and tiresome procedures. Our frustrations often come from the fact that, as the highest level of our democracy, we expect the Senate to do the will of the people. Our anger quickly turns to puzzlement upon learning that the Senate is actually a purposefully antidemocratic chamber. 

When drafting the Constitution and our government, the Framers took the Socratic view of democracy. They were wary of democracy’s potential for demagoguery through the manipulation of an unintelligent electorate. It seemed obvious to the Framers that they should limit the involvement of average citizens in electoral politics and create as many degrees of separation between the masses and the decision-makers as possible. So, to prevent both houses of Congress from being under direct democratic control, the Senate was designed to be the antithesis of the House of Representatives’ democratic model. This is why when you hear the vaunts of Senators Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema about the import and stature of the Senate, they are just a little overstated but not completely baseless. 

For 124 years, senators were chosen not by their constituents but by their state legislatures to further separate the Senate from We the People. But in 1913, the American people had enough and demanded a constitutional amendment establishing the direct election of senators in each state, resulting in the way we elect our senators today. 

However wrong the unelected appointment of senators may seem to us today, it was effective in upholding the Senate’s loftiness and prestige. Back when senators were selected differently than House members, senators acted differently than House members. Representatives could engage in fierce partisanship, perform showy stunts and make impassioned speeches; Senators were expected to rise above petty politics, work mostly from their offices and intellectually debate issues.

The Framers could have foreseen the antics of a Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz, but never would have anticipated the conduct of Senators Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley. The power to advise and consent has turned confirmation hearings into political showdowns. Unlimited debate opened the door to the filibuster, which necessitated the need for cloture and an unreasonably high 60-vote majority to get anything done. Senators now throw snowballs and play “The Price is Right” during speeches, read “Green Eggs and Ham” during debates and propagate inane internet conspiracy theories in their free time. And they are censured by their state parties when they fail to act ridiculously enough. 

Every day that senators are allowed to carry on so disgracefully makes a mockery of our democracy and prevents real government from taking place. The behavior we now accept as commonplace in American politics is unbecoming of the United States Senate, and someone has to say the emperors have no clothes. 

It is time to reexamine the Senate’s role in our government and create a functioning government again. We need to reclaim democracy in the Senate by doing away with antiquated powers like the filibuster, which is principally responsible for the gridlock we see in government today and removing the 60 vote threshold to end debate. We need to demand more from all our elected representatives and make it explicitly clear that we expect them to do the jobs for which they have been elected. But the only way for us to do those things is to vote. 

While sometimes difficult to see, the power to change government lies in our hands. Each time we step into a voting booth or drop our ballots in the mail, we choose to uphold or alter our government. So, as our midterms come to a close, we have to remember that we have another, much bigger midterm coming next November. Let’s turn out to vote for candidates who will enact these necessary reforms and live up to the ideal of government of, by and for the people. 

MICHAEL NDUBISI is a first year in Saybrook College. Contact him at

Michael Ndubisi is co-editor of the Yale Daily News’ Opinion desk and one of the News’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion co-chairs. Michael was previously an opinion columnist for the News, contributor and managing editor of ‘Time, Change and the Yale Daily News: A History’ and an associate beat reporter covering student accessibility. Originally from Long Beach, California, he is a sophomore in Saybrook College majoring in Political Science.