As Senate Democrats profess how impressed they are by Judge Sotomayor’s muddled and mediocre testimony, I’d just like to highlight what an excruciating fiasco this hearing must be for all the “progressives” who were hoping and expecting that it would provide an ardent defense of their constitutional vision. Sotomayor’s ridiculously wooden description of the judicial role makes Chief Justice Roberts’s umpire metaphor seem to have the richness and depth of a learned treatise by comparison. And numerous Democratic senators have agreed with Sotomayor that the Constitution is fixed and immutable (so much for the “living Constitution” vision) and have purported to embrace the virtues that judicial conservatives trumpet.
I have no illusions that a Justice Sotomayor will be anything other than a reliable vote for liberal judicial activism. But no matter what the final vote is on her nomination, this hearing will make it harder (politically more costly), not easier, for President Obama to nominate a candid progressive to the next vacancy.