Dahlia Lithwick, at the Campus Progress journalism conference last week, previewed the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings this week for The Nation.
Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices are evolving. We've gone from a simple stamp of approval by the Senate to something we see today. The first Supreme Court confirmation hearings I remember are those of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito. At the time, even though liberals knew that they were going to be very bad for liberal issues, there was a sense of inevitability. No matter how badly we knew it would be for America to confirm them, we knew that they would be confirmed, with "yes" votes from many Democrats.
With so many Democratic votes this time around, it's hard to imagine that Republicans feel anything but that inevitability. Instead, they will simply use the hearings to rally their bases, winking and nodding about overturning Roe v. Wade, the Second Amendment, and affirmative action.
Even though conservatives might feel on the defensive during the confirmation hearings of Sotomayor, the difference is that the Supreme Court, as we've seen with rulings this session, is still on their side. Sotomayor, if confirmed (and it's looking like she will be), is replacing one of the most liberal members of the Court. The balance of power still remains with conservatives.