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Ted Cruz would rather neuter the Supreme Court than appoint Merrick Garland or any other Democratic nominee.

Sean Rayford/Getty

Poor Merrick Garland. Once upon a time, he was going to be a wedge issue in down-ballot races, but he’s spent the last few months largely being forgotten, presumably sitting at home watching baseball, waiting for the phone to ring. (It never rings.)

But slowly but surely, Garland has reemerged in the race, at least in the abstract. Eyeing defeat in November, Republicans are starting to panic about the future of the Supreme Court, which could very well have a liberal majority for the first time in five decades. There’s little that Republicans can do, which helps explain why they’ve started to come around to a permanent stonewalling of Garland’s nomination—their only hope of maintaining control of the Court.

Speaking in Colorado on Wednesday, death-mask lookalike Ted Cruz argued that there is precedent for starving the court of new justices for a sustained period of time. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” Cruz said. “I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.” In other words, the court can function just fine without a ninth justice, thank you.

This is not true, as having eight justices has one very obvious flaw—no one likes ties, as Sunday night’s Cardinals-Seahawks game testifies. But conservatives like Cruz nevertheless see gridlock as being better than the alternative.