One reason elections matter
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    What about this lady, Sonia Sotomayor? Is she the brilliant, thoughtful, reliable jurist the Democrats say she is? Or is she the activist, identity-politics stealth liberal that Republicans fear?
    I’d like to know.
    There was no way I was going to find out by watching the televised Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, though.
    The dictionary definition of narcissist: “Extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.”
    About 19 of those folks were on display during the hearings, and not one of them was seated at the witness table. These narcissists were arrayed around the dais in the Senate hearing room.
    Where the senators sit.
    Oh, my. Did any of you patient long-suffering readers spend time in front of the boob tube, listening to the boring nonsense which flowed from these people like pus from an infected wound?
    It went on, painfully, for hours.
    One would have thought it was they, the 19 senators, who were being considered for some awesome responsibility. The speechifying was numbing enough to stop a clock.
    And, mostly, it involved the senators talking not about Sotomayor, but about themselves. Obviously, that is their favorite topic, and they never tire of hearing about it in their own voices.
    Judge Sotomayor deserves a gold star just for remaining seated, maintaining at least a moderately interested expression, through it all.
    Where, oh where, have we gone wrong as voters? Why do we keep placing people in high places that we wouldn’t want to have over for dinner, or share a few beers with at some friendly local pub? Is our collective judgment really that bad?
    Personally, I have come reluctantly to believe in term limits. Reluctantly because it would jettison the occasional — and I do mean, occasional — politician worth keeping, someone at least vaguely reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart’s character in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
    But I think term limits may be the only sure-fire way to break the partisan grip of power so jealously guarded by the professional career political class. They are the true believers, the ideologues, who go to Washington “with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.” And, one more craving: For power, and all the fawning attentiveness that brings with it.
    If I could be king for a day there would be 12-year term limits. Six two-year terms for representatives, two six-year terms for senators. The most a single person could serve would be 12 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate. That’s still too much, but it would be an improvement, and would force the politician to at least win two statewide elections to move into the Senate.
    If term limits are good enough for presidents, they ought to be good enough for Congress.
    Now, back to Sotomayor. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was correct: The only way she would not be confirmed would be if she had suffered a “total meltdown.”
    With that lifetime appointment to the Supremes secured, I believe we will see a very liberal activist judge with a tendency to give the benefit of the doubt to minority litigants. The other justices from the liberal wing of the court — Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer — judge cases in that fashion. Why would anyone think Sotomayor will be different?
    Her elevation to the Supreme Court will not change the balance. Four conservative justices will remain — Thomas, Scalia, Roberts and Alito — with one moderate, Kennedy, serving as the swing vote.
    This is why elections matter. Conservatives appoint conservative judges. Barack Obama has appointed a liberal judge. Did anyone expect a different outcome?
    In four years, or maybe eight, Obama will be gone. Sotomayor will remain, probably for decades.
    These nominations are among the most powerful acts of any president, because the justice carries on the ideological mission of the administration for many years.
    If you don’t like that, the remedy will arrive in November 2012.
    Meanwhile, get used to saying “Justice Sotomayor.”