Spinning the Stevens Replacement.

In case you haven't had your fill of contentious debates and preening senators, we've got a Supreme Court vacancy to fill. The big question (after whom Obama will nominate) is just how Republicans will decide to oppose the nominee. Will they launch a filibuster, as Adam discusses, and validate everything Democrats have been saying about "the Party of No"? Will they use the nomination to whip up populist anger at the administration? As Matt Yglesias noted, "Evaluating the nominee on the merits doesn't seem to be an option." What I think we can agree on is that the strategy will be pretty much the same, no matter who the nominee is. And what might that strategy be? Let's look at some possibilities:

1. The nominee is a [cue scary music] judicial activist who will impose his/her own liberal views instead of applying the law. This argument is going to be somewhat hard to make, since the most pressing legal issue at the moment for Republicans is their demand that the courts overturn a law recently passed by Congress.

2. The nominee is a gay-loving, family-destroying social engineer, who will turn your kids gay, make the military gay, and force you to be gay. Also, he/she might be gay. This would be the base-rousing strategy. Problem is, the conservative Christian portion of the base is less on the GOP's mind these days than the Tea Party base, but up until now the latter has shown only marginal interest in hot-button social issues.

3. The nominee is One of Them, not One of Us, a liberal elitist who looks down his/her nose at People Like You. Now we're getting somewhere.

That's not to mention the subsidiary arguments, like the ever-popular, "The nominee once wrote something that, when taken out of context and distorted beyond recognition, looks troubling!" But it could be a combination of all these. Remember that when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated, the Republicans pretty much went all in on racial resentment. All of the attacks on her revolved around the idea that she might be unfair to white people. Can they pull the same routine again? Perhaps not -- the leading candidates at this point are a white man and some white women.

Call me an optimist, but I think that the combination of the GOP's reluctance to look too intransigent, and the boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome -- if they argue that this nominee will destroy America, just like Sotomayor destroyed America, and health-care reform destroyed America, and the stimulus destroyed America, people might yawn -- could make this nomination go relatively smoothly. We can hope.

-- Paul Waldman

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