The second source of Senate dysfunction concerns the nature of modern political movements. In particular, social media and conservative media have created a powerful avenue of influence outside of party structures, and this empowers ideological purists and intimidates other conservative legislators. A senator such as Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) or Rand Paul (R-Ky.) does not need to work his way up to influence by persuading his Senate colleagues; he gains prominence by using populist issues (unrealistic attempts at Obamacare repeal or imaginary domestic drone threats) to criticize the weakness or perfidy of his colleagues.
I wonder if conservative “constitutionalists” have any idea how odd and disturbing the Founders would have found the whole idea of the Senate as a populist platform. According to Federalist 63: “There are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn.” The Senate is specifically designed to minimize, not multiply, such moments.