Jesse's got some great comments on Duncan's confusion as to why the GOP wants to destroy the judiciary. Read them. Love them. His basic point is that if you destroy the judiciary, the country will ride with the whim of the people. Ignorant legislators profiting from backlash politics can work their obscene magic on the government free from robed authorities stepping forward to outlaw the unconstitutional, or the just plain insane. Considering the portion of the Christian Right's agenda that checks the "unconstitutional" and "insane" boxes, that's a Good Thing.

But there's a break in conservative thought on the judiciary, though it's a public, not private, one. A fair number of conservatives are personally uncomfortable with the Christian Right but aware of their electoral and political importance. So they comfort themselves with the knowledge that the nuttier pieces of theocracy thrown out by evangelicals (and the true believers they sometimes elect) will be blocked by the judicial branch, therefore remobilizing the Christians, who vote for the right, which consolidates its power and implements policies that non-evangelical conservatives want. That group probably includes most senators and a bare majority of Republican congressmen. Sure you've got your exceptions, the Brownbacks, Coburns and Santorums of the world, but they're a small price to pay for the crucial Christian support that elects so many "normal" Republicans. So these conservatives use the judiciary as a safety valve, a check on the faustian bargain they've struck with the religious right. They don't want the judiciary gone, they want it in operation, but wildly unpopular.

Of course, it can get too unpopular and face massive reform, or, more accurately, demolition. Acts like Brownback's "Restoration of the Constitution" are becoming less symbolically introduced and more priorities for the Christian Right. That's a natural extension of their increased power -- as they grow, they've stopped being merely an interest group helping too elect conservatives and begun electing their own conservatives, true believers who want the same crackpot things they do. As more and more of them populate the halls of power, their nuttier ideas become ever more actionable.

They've not hit critical mass quite yet, but they will soon. And then...what? What will the rational Republicans do? Opportunists like Frist know full well AIDS doesn't travel through tears and condoms are secure, but they see these little lies as appeasing a group that wants to implement some giant falsehoods. Soon, little lies won't be enough and only the massive ones -- like homosexuals destroy marriage -- will suffice. So what do the good Republicans do then? Contra Atrios, they don't want the judiciary dead. Contra Jesse, they don't want government by public whim. They just wanted government by their whim. They just wanted power. And now, having indulged the Christian Right to get it, they're finding that their distasteful allies actually kept some power -- maybe a lot? -- for themselves, and want to use it in service of an objectionable agenda. The question is whether the opportunists can, at this point, wrest their power back, or whether the balance has tilted in favor of those who genuinely want to destroy the judiciary. At base, it's a numbers question, and I'm not sure anybody currently knows how to count it.

Update: Welcome Air America folks. There's coffee on the stove and food in the fridge. Make yourselves at home.