Post-Alito: Some Thoughts
It's going to be interesting to see if the "cry wolf" effect that I've talked about really has legs. Has the rhetoric of Ted Kennedy, PFAW, and the like become nothing but background noise? I think so. The era of Borking is over. There are too many Republican Senators who understand the stakes of the fight and too many conservative groups/websites ready to respond to every attack on a nominee. The "Samuel Alito's America" routine didn't work. I don't think that a "Michael McConnell's America", a "Michael Luttig's America", or a "Karen Williams' America" speech will have any effect either. The nominee's qualifications and performance at the hearing matter a hell of a lot more than the rhetoric of the Left.
Let's assume that there are no more vacancies during the Bush presidency. The older Justices may try to hang on as long as possible (which I think is actuarially unlikely). If that happens, then the 2008 presidential election has become incredibly important for both parties. I know, it's important as is, but the next election will decide the shift of the Court for the next decade at least. Even if the rest of the Justices hang on for three more years, they won't last through 2012. The Democrats need to win the election to maintain the number of liberal votes. The Republicans need to win it to finally shift the Court conservative (not a sometimes 5 vote majority, but a solid voting group). That's the other lesson from this: elections matter.