Oh, for those halcyon days in the Senate, when partisanship, obstructionism and gentlemanly treachery were codified in the rules.
When it didn't matter that a majority of senators finally got up the guts to support something their constituents, as opposed to the interest groups, wanted -- it wasn't going to happen, because of those ancient, traditional, hallowed rules.
After all, any bunch of fools -- did I SAY the House of Representatives? -- can operate on majority rule. In the high-flown Senate, avoiding the will of the people always had to be done with finesse.
Forever, the Senate has been a (hot) airbag, a buffer, a place where the battering ram of public outrage met the deep, smothering pillow of the rules. Where the wrong side of history could, for a while at least, comfortably hang out in the cloakroom with its old crony, the status quo.
Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina filibustering the Civil Rights Act. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina filibustering the establishment of Martin Luther King Day.
Ah, those were the days. Good times.
But then Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had the temerity to object to the fact that the Republicans were using the implied, or silent, filibuster, as opposed to the real, all-nighter kind, to block presidential appointments at a record rate. So he pressed the "nuclear option" button, hidden deep in the folds and wattles of those ancient rules, and boom! Now candidates for anything short of the Supreme Court could be approved by a -- gasp -- majority vote.
Harrumph. Why, it's practically socialism.
Reid is "going to have `The End of the Senate' written on his tombstone," Sen. Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, fumed this week.
Yes, what's happening now is silly and unseemly -- Alexander rightly compared it to "fourth graders playing in a sandbox."
Infuriated Republicans have retaliated against Reid's majority by using every possible time-wasting stratagem left to them under the rules. They are forcing delay after delay. So the Democrats re-retaliated by scheduling votes day and night, forcing senators to sleep in their offices, and wander the halls of the Capitol bleary-eyed at all hours.
(Of course, even more infuriating to some, they are actually getting the nominees confirmed -- including judicial nominations long bottled up by the intransigent minority.)
Still, the back-and-forth backbiting is itself both puerile and dysfunctional.
All partisanship aside, I can't help but wonder this: If the Senate had 80 women members instead of 20, would we be going through all this nonsense?
Certainly, women can be as petty as men. But I can't imagine them legislating with the escalating, competitive schoolboy testosterone-fueled behavior that we're currently seeing in the Senate.
Whatever the gender split, the Senate would work better without the filibuster, period.
In this supremely dysfunctional year, the "silent filibuster" doomed both a widely supported bill to expand background checks on weapons purchases and a majority-backed defense-bill amendment that would have brought real, wrenching -- and needed -- reform to the military criminal justice system.
After debate on the former, Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., exulted on Facebook, "You can have this much gun control," holding his fingers in the shape of a zero.
During debate on the latter, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said sexual assaults are the result of the "hormone level created by nature."
The Senate clearly will work much better when such dinosaurs are displaced by newcomers less invested in the status quo, and more interested in getting things done than in getting even.
David McCumber, Hearst Newspapers; email@example.com.