In any case, it will refocus those on the right who, like Jim DeMint, want 30 “true” conservatives instead of a majority. Maybe electability — always a good criterion for nomination — will rise as a concern. Having that Senate majority just became a whole lot more important.
As with any ill-conceived, rash move to tear up long-established practice there will be unintended consequences. In this case I suspect they will not be limited to the quality of nominees. Here are a few that might pan out over time:
The power of right-wing interest groups to primary incumbents may diminish as the risk of losing seats held even by “squishy” Republicans becomes too great.Presidential contenders will be pressed to discuss their potential nominees more specifically and face a conflict between appeals to the base and the patina of moderation.The quality of appellate court judges will vary greatly and the divide between liberal and conservative judges will increase. The potential for many more conflicts between circuits and therefore more Supreme Court cases to resolve the conflicts may increase.Presidents may be more inclined to go outside the appellate bench for Supreme Court nominees as the lower court judges become more partisan and less respected.The number of scandals, real and imagined, increase as problematic nominees fill the executive branch. The frequency of judicial impeachment proceedings may increase.The danger of overreach increases considerably and therefore incumbents in the White House and Senate become more vulnerable. Incumbents as we know can often be their own worst enemies.
Some or all of these may occur, and many others may pop up. What we do know is that Democrats didn’t bother to think through most of these. They, like the president who leads them, is perpetually focused on the short-term advantage and on feeding red meat to their base. It’s a bad way to run the country. We’ll see how bad it really is as Obama and Reid’s Senate demolition plays out over time.