Over the past few days hardly anyone (except me, until now) has failed to weigh in with an opinion about the Democrats' move in the U.S. Senate to eliminate the filibuster as tool the opposition can use to block Presidential appointments endlessly.
The use of the term "nuclear option" is very apt for this maneuver, because in the system of mutually assured destruction that is enshrined in the Senate's ancient rules, the Democrats - mostly some of the younger ones, as I understand it - have launched the missiles, and Republicans' immediate response was to threaten retaliation as soon as they get their hands on the trigger again.
Many commentators have pointed out that Democrats can hardly be blamed for reacting with impatience to extended Republican obstructionism; but most also caution that tossing aside a rule that has protected either minority party from being railroaded is the greater danger because it threatens the stability of our entire system of government.
It's difficult to choose a side here. On the one hand, Americans are an impatient people. We get tired of our wars after a few months, we buy window coverings from places with names like "Next Day Blinds," and we just want our government to get things done, NOW, without worrying too much about the process. Those who concern themselves at all with "government gridlock" will I suspect conclude that there's no harm in trying to shake things up a bit.
On the other hand, of course, we see the prospect of further dysfunction in our government (yes, really, it probably IS possible!) as the parties continue to seek to grind each other into dust while the business of government goes unattended. Not a pleasant prospect.
Ultimately, I think I come down on the side of change. The Senate rules have long been antiquated and out of step with the current century (or even the last one). It was time for change. Republicans, in choosing to become the party of No in the fond belief they had found a clever way to starve government without having to do anything legislatively, willy-nilly chose disequilibrium. It could be argued that conservatives, if anyone, should have sought to preserve the longstanding traditions of the Senate, rather than pervert them into a travesty. Was it in fact the Republicans who initiated nuclear war, and the Democrats who are now retaliating?
All that said, the Democrats' action is impetuous. I suspect there could have been less drastic solutions, such as for example setting an upper limit on the term over which a filibuster (or other hold) might be exercised in the case of Presidential nominations; or, rather than letting themselves by stymied by the threat of a filibuster, moving ahead with a vote for cloture and forcing a filibuster. Such compromises may yet become the new norm around which politicians of moderation and good will can coalesce.