Republics are held together by written laws and by unwritten norms. The Roman Republic called its unwritten standards the mos maiorum—”way of the ancestors.” After thriving for centuries, the Roman Republic began to commit suicide around 100 B.C., as demagogues cast aside the mos maiorum and turned politics into tribal warfare.
Similar trends are apparent in the United States today, including on Supreme Court vacancies.
The Constitution’s written law for the Supreme Court is terse. Article III establishes a Supreme Court and specifies certain cases that it must hear. Article II states that the president will “nominate…Judges of the Supreme Court,” subject to “the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” Since 1789, presidents have made nominations and the Senate has granted or withheld consent depending on the politics of the day.
Presidential nominees have won the consent of the Senate 121 times. Thirty-seven nominees have been rejected….