There are some potentially serious short- and long-term consequences to all of this, which should worry both parties. If Republicans are actually able to derail Hagel with a filibuster, it would shatter tradition and might lead to similar filibusters in the future – both for Obama’s nominees and for nominees of future presidents from both parties. It could also spur Reid to rethink his resistance to major Senate rules changes and to reopen the idea of using the nuclear option. And even if the filibuster is broken, a mostly party-line vote on Hagel’s confirmation could set a bad example too. After all, the White House’s party controls the Senate now, so it theoretically has the votes to confirm its nominees (assuming they get up/down votes). But what happens if party-line votes for Cabinet picks become the norm and, sometime in the not-so-distant future, the White House’s party is in the minority in the Senate?
What’s revealing to me is how it now takes a lefty like Kornacki to defend basic parliamentary tradition. No entity in our polity right now is more radical and revolutionary than the current GOP: their contempt for institutional custom knows few bounds when it comes to the short-term tactical possibility of impeding even a newly re-elected president, after losing the popular vote for the presidency, Senate and House. The whole concept of putting country before party is that sometimes you take the long national view rather than the short partisan one. You give the other party a chance to govern, as the Democrats did Reagan. But the anti-conservative revolutionary party that Gingrich began and Kristol egged on is now in its zombie stage – with no viable way back to majority status but lunging slowly and malevolently toward anything that is not far right. That includes the Constitution and its evolved customs and parliamentary traditions.