Democratic court packing would ignite a partisan arms race that would quickly culminate in the complete dissolution of the court’s authority, with one party adding seats to “win” until the other party gets the chance to do the same by adding still more seats. How long until the number of justices on the Supreme Court surpasses the number of senators? Or House members?

Long before that happened, the institution would be reduced in the eyes of the public to what its most severe critics have long claimed it is: a kind of super-legislature whose extraordinarily powerful members are appointed for life rather than elected by the voters. That the battle for majority control of this unelected legislative body would not be a contest between the appointing parties for a fixed and finite number of seats but a constant expansion of the body’s size would only add a layer of absurdity to the spectacle.

All of which means that if the goal is to give the Republicans a taste of their own medicine and enjoy the fruits of ruthless power politics, the court packing gambit would be a complete failure for Democrats. Only if the goal is to shred the legitimacy of the judicial branch of government could it be judged a success.