On further reflection, I still see this as a massive win. I’m amused by the Republican counter-threats to nominate…exactly the same kind of judges they’ve been nominating and getting confirmed since the Reagan administration when they’re in charge. I’ll take that risk!
The interesting question, to me, is how the Republicans got rolled so badly. I have three theories:
Focusing on potential primarily challengers and unable to think strategically past their immediate goals, Senate Republicans didn’t stop to consider that eliminating the filibuster (potentially for everything) would hurt their long-term interests. If this was true, they got routed both in the short- and long-term, and the behavior of the Republican conference was essentially irrational.
Misunderestimating Harry Reid
Senate Republicans—like many liberals—may have assumed that Reid’s threats were empty. But Reid is sometimes mistaken for a weak leader precisely because like all competent political leaders he doesn’t make broad threats he doesn’t have the votes to back up. When he does make threats the underrated, very savvy Reid is likely to have the support to back it up. If they didn’t grasp this, Republicans found out the hard way.
Some Senate Republicans may have convinced themselves that liberals will be more ruthless in their use the filibuster than conservatives. That is quite clearly false. The filibuster has almost always favored opponents of social reform, and since progressives generally want to do things and conservatives generally want to stop things this will almost certainly be true going forward. But never underestimate someone’s ability to stop believing their own guff.
I’m guessing #2 is the most common reason, but who knows?
…and one more thing: many thanks to the Republican primary voters of Delaware, Missouri, Indiana, and Nevada. May more and more states learn from your fine example of Tea Party principle!
…steadfast foe of the filibuster Hendrik Hertzberg has more.