This is the point: If a justice’s personal views matter, then both conservatives and liberals have no choice but to man the barricades against those they disagree with. If senators were convinced that justices, whatever their ideology or personal views, would “read a text and give it fair meaning,” then they could with good conscience vote for Elena Kagan. However, since being “center-left” today means that justices ought to focus not on giving the text a “fair reading,” in fact not focus on the text at all, but, instead, as Obama said in nominating Kagan, focus on “law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people…”
Miguel Estrada became something of a conservative hero as he endured the abuse of the left during his nomination process for the Appeals Court. There may be reasons for Republicans not to go to the mat on Kagan — the next nominee may be worse, the Republicans may not hold their 41 votes, it may distract from issues such as the economy, etc. — but there is no heroism in simply surrendering the Supreme Court to the left, which is the practical implication of Miguel Estrada’s letter.