Although Court-packing would demolish a norm that has lasted 150 years, what the Republican Senate did to Garland and is set to do after Ginsburg’s death, is norm-shattering, too. If a Ginsburg replacement goes through before Election Day—or, in the case of a Democratic triumph, before Inauguration Day—packing the Court (along with eliminating the filibuster for legislation, which it would require) is the only rational response. It’s measured and proportional. And it would give Republicans the opportunity to sue for peace someday—after the Court roster is increased.
Remember, the Axelrod experiment began with cooperation. It’s only after cooperation failed that tit-for-tat became the correct strategy.
You can admire Democrats for resisting a turn to the political Dark Side. You can admire them for not being as good as Republicans at being bad. But at a certain point—Garland and Ginsburg and what more is on the way?—the propensity amounts to stupidity. Sometimes fighting fire with fire is the only way, until each side recognizes the flames will consume them all. Eventually, we can hope the combatants understand that bilateral disarmament is the only way to endure—and that we return to an era when rigid ideology isn’t the benchmark for Court nominations. Maybe both sides would figure it out in a few years, or maybe in 50.