I remember reading Matt Yglesias or the Crooked Timber guys or some other high-brow types musing about how US-style governmental systems fall when major parties act like it was a parliamentary system. I’m starting to wonder if that’s what’s coming now. Jon Chait:
The most important and alarming facet of Lugar’s defeat, and a factor whose importance is being overlooked at the moment, is one of the reasons Mourdock cited against him: Lugar voted to confirm two of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees….
The social norm against blocking qualified, mainstream Supreme Court nominees is one of the few remaining weapons the Republican Party has left lying on the ground. But if Republican Senators attribute Lugar’s defeat even in part to those votes for Kagan and Sotomayor, which seems to be the case, what incentive do they have to vote for another Obama nominee? And then what will happen if he gets another vacancy to fill — will Republican Senators allow him to seat any recognizably Democratic jurist? Especially as the Supreme Court interjects itself more forcefully into partisan disputes like health care, will it become commonplace for the Court to have several vacancies due to gridlock, for the whole legitimacy of the institution to collapse?
Steve M adds:
I think the crisis could extend to the entire Cabinet. What happens if Eric Holder decides to resign? What happens if there are resignations at Cabinet departments Republicans want to eliminate?
I think a lot of earth is going to be scorched starting in 2013.
Our system isn’t set up to deal with what the national Republican party already has become, let alone what it is becoming. There are lots of levers a minority party can pull to stop the wheels of government, and there’s not much reason for Republicans not to pull them. It doesn’t hurt the party much politically to do so — the media will just tell us that both sides do it, that it all started with Robert Bork — whereas it does hurt individual Republicans when they won’t take part in the destruction.
Serious people would have us believe that Great Men look inside their souls and do what’s right, but that’s not how things work here on planet earth. People respond to carrots and sticks; this is especially true of politically ambitious types. When you’re a Republican, you get the carrot for blocking things, you get the stick for not blocking them.
You tell me what Congressional Republicans will do.