Emily, I think the “new” definition of bipartisanship John explores is clearly at work in the Sotomayor spectacle, with respect not so much to vote-counting but to the extent that this hearing has shown “how many ideas from the opposition party are included” in a Democratic president’s nominee. By that measure, this has to be the most bipartisan hearing in history. Sotomayor has touted the virtue of neutral umpires and thrown Obama’s newly minted empathy standard under the bus. I haven’t heard a word from her or much from committee Democrats that lays out a theory of liberal jurisprudence. The resounding bipartisan lesson from these hearings is that the only thing missing from the John Roberts Court is a few more John Robertses.
You ask whether any of this means anything for future nominations. My sense is that while it may be too early to know exactly what these hearings have meant, this was ultimately a failed opportunity by Senate Democrats to explain to Americans why future Supreme Court nominations should matter. I wasn’t hoping for “a shining liberal vision of the law”—I am not all that certain there is one. But this was an opportunity to show why neutral umpires don’t exist and why, even if they did, we wouldn’t want nine of them. I do think this hearing will hamstring President Obama in his future court choices, not because we learned nothing, but because it revealed so much more than we’d care to admit.