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Did Merrick Garland die so Democrats might live?

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

OK, Garland is not dead. He is enjoying a comfortable and intellectually rewarding life as the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. But for a moment last year, he was on the cusp of entering a very exclusive historical pantheon, only to be waylaid by an unprecedented boycott by the Republican-controlled Senate. He seemed destined to become a quirk in American history, a footnote, a question in Trivial Pursuit: the Supreme Court nominee who didn’t even get a hearing.

But as Democrats finally start to wise up, they are pursuing hardball tactics as well. This morning, Democrats said they would boycott the hearings for two of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, Steve Mnuchin and Tom Price. The Republicans are besides themselves, with Senator Orrin Hatch wailing that Democrats have committed a “dereliction of duty.” Hatch, who may have taken the prize for biggest hypocrite in the Garland affair, actually said, “I don’t remember us treating their nominees that way.” He added, “It’s a total abrogation of their duties as senators. ... It’s pathetic.”

As a result, seemingly against all odds, the words “Merrick Garland” have taken on a talismanic quality. The unassuming judge has become the great martyr of scuttled nominations, prodding Democrats to forge ahead with their own righteous obstructionism. You will live forever in our hearts, Merrick Garland.