RALEIGH — In politics, the karma may not be instant — but it will get you, sooner or later. Want examples? Just check out the political headlines of the past few weeks.
Anthony Kennedy, the sometime-swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court, announced his retirement. Democrats and progressives are apoplectic about what may come next. But they won’t be able to filibuster President Trump’s nominee, just as they weren’t able to filibuster now-Justice Neil Gorsuch last year. Senate Republicans nuked that power with a simple majority — observing that when the shoes were on the other feet, the Democrats then controlling the U.S. Senate had already nuked any filibusters of President Obama’s appellate judges and Cabinet secretaries in 2013.
When Harry Reid (D-Nevada), the Senate majority leader at the time, first used that nuclear option, Republicans forecast karmic consequences. “It’s another raw exercise of political power to permit the majority to do anything it wants whenever it wants to do it,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. “Democrats won’t be in power in perpetuity,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama. “This is a mistake — a big one for the long run.”
The long run, in this case, proved to be only a few years. But the wheel of politics can turn even faster than that. Consider the case of North Carolina judicial elections.
For the 2016 election cycle, the Republican majority in the General Assembly decided to make elections to the court of appeals explicitly partisan but to keep party labels off the single Supreme Court race that year, the one pitting (Republican) incumbent Bob Edmunds against (Democratic) challenger Mike Morgan.
Initially, GOP lawmakers had tried to give Edmunds no challenger at all, with a…