You've Been Warned

I don’t often praise EJ Dionne’s Washington Post columns, but this one is on the money:

Conservatives say that liberals are a strange bunch to be defending the filibuster — and the conservatives have a point. Liberals fought the filibuster when it was used by the Senate’s Southern segregationist minority to stall civil rights bills. I’ll acknowledge that when Republicans used the filibuster to obstruct health care reform and other pieces of progressive legislation in the first years of President Bill Clinton’s term, I was tempted to support changes in the filibuster rules.

But conservatives who support the nuclear option are utterly unwilling to acknowledge their own convenient change of heart. They defended the filibuster as long as they were in the minority, but would cast it aside now that they have grabbed the presidency and narrow majorities in both houses. The liberals, moreover, never tried to twist the rules to get rid of the filibuster, as the conservatives are doing.

Senate Republicans are acting stupidly. And when I say that, I don’t mean some special kind of stupid particular to Republicans. I mean, they’re acting like a typical party-in-power.

Ruling parties tend to act as if their rule will last forever. For Exhibit A, I give you California’s Democrats. After Pete Wilson destroyed the state Republican Party to get himself reelected in 1994, the Democrats took charge in 1998, with a stunning completeness. They then proceded to rewrite the rules to suit their agenda, and the opposition be damned.

It took them a mere six years to destroy themselves.

Arnold is now the Governator, and his popular reform agenda promises to hurt California Democrats in the same way an Al McGinnis slapshot would your forehead.

Senate Republicans – and Republicans in general – need to remember that no matter how rosy things have looked since 2002, things will change. Democrats will someday regain control of the Senate. When that day comes, Republicans will come to realize their mistake. And they’ll realize it the hard way: Too late, when it comes back to bite them on the ass.

The filibuster is a frustrating rule, but it’s a good one. Anything, almost anything at all, that slows down the never-ending flood of new legislation is, by my lights, a good thing. And do Republicans really want President Hillary Clinton being able to railroad judges past them?

So I’m disappointed in the Senate Republicans, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Majority parties do one of two things. They either act like they’ll always run things, or they act in haste on all things beacuse they’re afraid that their rule will end too soon.

Either way, their actions tend to be self-defeating — even at the ballot box.

UPDATE: I don’t like to say I told you so, but I did just that over two years ago.