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Politics! In the United States Senate!


The fetish about the number of no votes registered in successful Supreme Court nominations is one of the strangest Villager obsessions.

I do think that the apparent underlying ideology — that confirmation hearings for life-tenured appointments to an independent branch should focus on narrow qualifications and perhaps personal trivia as opposed to substantive constitutional issues — is what explains Matt’s query:

I still in an honest-to-God, no-joking way don’t understand why conservatives who want to vote “no” don’t just say something normal like “I thought Justice Souter voted the wrong way on a number of important cases, I think Judge Sotomayor is likely to vote in a similar way to Souter; I would prefer a judge who votes like Justice Roberts or Justice Scalia; therefore, I’ll vote no.” That’s not insane, it’s not offensive, it’s not foolish, it’s not bizarre—it’s something you’d have to respect.

Not only does the idea that Senators should be unable to vote for nominees based on ideological disagreement even when justices are chosen for obviously ideological reasons make no sense on the merits, it creates a perverse normative order in which bad-faith race-baiting is considered acceptable but straightforward disagreement on matters of constitutional principle is not.

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