But the Senators’ gain on the Court may also be a cost to the Court. Because the justices will be forced to undertake their work, for years to come, in the face of challenges to the Court’s legitimacy.

Even though the circumstances surrounding the appointment of this justice will prove nothing about the new justice herself; and even though her work, like that of her colleagues, will be judged best in terms of the Constitution’s meaning, not in terms of the Republican senators’ own credibility; the fact remains that the Court’s work will be seen by many, many Americans—and not just Democrats, but many others, too—as the product of the most palpably hypocritical political action in living memory.

This would be profoundly unfair to the nominee. Conservatives demand that Supreme Court justices do their jobs with utmost commitment to principle. And that commitment to principle requires justices to decide extremely controversial cases in ways that will attract incredibly heated political and personal attacks. For precisely that reason, Republican senators need to do everything possible to protect the justices’ perceived legitimacy, rather than undermine it.