President Obama decided to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Democrats and republicans are trying to turn his nomination into an argument about procedural principles that neither side is really committed to in the abstract–there have of course been previous occasions when some of the same democrats who today scold republicans for not “doing their jobs” tried to argue that nominations shouldn’t be made in election years, and there have of course been previous occasions when some of the same republicans who today scold democrats for trying to deny the people a say in the nominating process tried to argue that congress has a duty to consider the president’s nominee. We’re not fooling each other, so let’s stop fooling ourselves–we appeal to whichever procedural principles happen to advance our ideological objectives. Crying hypocrisy about procedure misses the point–both sides are consistent about which objectives they consider good, and they use whatever political means available to them to achieve those objectives. So instead of hiding behind procedure, let’s instead talk about the Garland nomination through an explicitly ideological lens.
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