24 years ago a new term was coined, “borking” or “to bork.”  It is a tactic in which Democrats still revel, except when they feel they are on the receiving end at which point they cry foul.

Borking is the complete politicization of the judicial nomination process, in which bad motives are imputed to purely legal positions.  So if a judicial nominee believes that a particular issue is beyond the reach of the federal judiciary and properly for the political process, that nominee will have the worst motives imputed to him or her, including an imputed desire for bad results.  Thus, taking the position that there is no federal constituional right for [insert claimed right here] allows people like Ted Kennedy to claim that the nominee wants [insert horrific result here].

This tendency to treat judicial restraint as inherently negative, and to insist that the judiciary take on a super-political role, is why borking works so much better against conservatives.

The ugliness of borking has effects beyond the judiciary, notes Joe Nocera in The NY Times:

I bring up Bork not only because Sunday is a convenient anniversary. His nomination battle is also a reminder that our poisoned politics is not just about Republicans behaving badly, as many Democrats and their liberal allies have convinced themselves. Democrats can be — and have been — every bit as obstructionist, mean-spirited and unfair.

I’ll take it one step further. The Bork fight, in some ways, was the beginning of the end of civil discourse in politics. For years afterward, conservatives seethed at the “systematic demonization” of Bork…. The anger between Democrats and Republicans, the unwillingness to work together, the profound mistrust — the line from Bork to today’s ugly politics is a straight one.