The Idea of the Senate features thoughtful analysis of the Senate’s rules and procedures, its history and traditions, and its personnel and prerogatives. Covering more than two centuries of political thought, each entry in this collection provides a quotation from the original source placed into historical context.
By the direct primary and popular election of Senators it was sought to make our choice of Senators more democratic. In some respects substantial progress has been made toward that goal. But if our newer processes both of nomination and election and also of lawmaking have become more democratic, there is abundant evidence that they have made the winning of a seat in the Senate easier for the demagogue, and have subjected its members to more demagogic demands from within and from without. While the Seventeenth Amendment was under debate, its opponents predicted that its adoption would make the Senate a mere duplicate of the House. After twenty-five years of experience with the results of popular election the question is raised, whether what was formerly the sober and dignified branch of Congress is not “becoming the more flighty and irresponsible”—whether today it is not the Senate that “takes more kindly to rash and hasty legislation than does the House.” -George Haynes, 1938
The varied and extraordinary functions and powers of the Senate make it, according to one's point of view, a hydra-headed monster or the citadel of constitutional and democratic liberties. Like democracy itself, the Senate is inefficient, unwieldy, inconsistent; it has its foibles, its vanities, its members who are great, the near great, and those who think they are great. But like democracy also, it is strong, it is sound at the core, it has survived many changes, it has saved the country many catastrophes, it is a safeguard against any form of tyranny, good or bad, which consciously or unconsciously might tend to remove the course of government from persistent public scrutiny. In the last analysis, it is probably the price we in America have to pay for liberty.