Did the crafty Mitch McConnell just succeed in getting Democrats to damage their long-term interest by nuking the filibuster? I’ve always defended the filibuster (and still do) as a valid anti-majoritarian device, especially useful for when fitful voters make a mistake as they did in 2008 (with the help of the Justice Department in Alaska and Al Franken’s cheating in Minnesota) and install a large Democratic majority in the Senate.
But consider the other side of this. Henry Olsen points out:
For conservatives upset about the filibuster changes, consider this: since the nationwide direct election of Senators started in 1913, the Republican Party has never held sixty seats in the Senate following an election. The filibuster, when used as a partisan weapon, forces a national grand coalition government that sanctifies minor changes to status quo. Its demise means it’s now possible for conservatives to pass their agenda.
And Pete Spillakos, writing on the First Things Postmodern Conservative blog, argues thus:
What surprises me is how stupid the Senate Democrats were in their timing of the destruction of the filibuster. Their move keeps the filibuster in place for legislation and Supreme Court nominations, but now there is no way that the Republicans will retain the filibuster if they should regain power in the Senate. . .
I hope they enjoy their nominees to the DC appeals court, because Democrats also hurt themselves in the politics of Supreme Court nominations. As Jan Crawford Greenburg pointed out, the contemporary politics of Supreme Court nominations is asymmetrical. Democratic nominees sail through. . . A Republican Supreme Court nomination has (since Bork) been a dramatic event. Prior to today, a Republican president had to win the public relations battle over his Supreme Court nomination very decisively in order to hold together virtually the entire Republican Senate caucus and intimidate enough vulnerable-feeling Democrats to vote for the Republican nominee. Reid and friends just made it so that the next Republican president has to win over the fiftieth most conservative Senator to get a nominee confirmed instead of the sixtieth most conservative Senator.
And if you need more arguments, just note that the Washington Post’s egregious Dana Milbank is against it, saying “they will come to deeply regret what they have done.” This is what made me rethink my position: if a liberal Postie thinks it’s a bad idea, then maybe it is a good idea.
Sen. Carl Levin, one of only three Democrats to vote against the change, offers an even bigger clue: “down the road — we don’t know how far down the road; we never know that in a democracy — but, down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people’s health and welfare will be lost.”
And exposing Democratic hypocrisy over the matter is just gravy, such as then-Sen. Joe Biden, back in 2005, warning: “I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.” I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that God doesn’t answer Joe Biden’s prayers. I’m sure even the Almighty cringes when he hears Slow Joe make a pious petition.
Just like the independent persecutor counsel statute that Democrats stampeded to repeal when they discovered it could be used on them, now they rush to complain when Republicans use the same tactics on personnel that they used against so many Bush nominees.