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"Extremely Mainstream"

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Abby Phillip at Politico has this post on Republican opposition to the confirmation of Goodwin Liu and three others in the lame duck session.  The disagreement comes down to a perception of what it means to be "mainstream."  Liu himself has been a combatant in this debate, opposing the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito on the ground that he was supposedly out of the mainstream, and particularly with regard to the death penalty.  "GOP lawmakers have flagged Liu and three other nominees as too liberal and inexperienced to be included with a batch of other 'noncontroversial' candidates set for confirmation during the rapidly dwindling lame-duck legislative session."

"Overall, the Republicans are really flexing their muscles" by opposing the four, said Caroline Frederickson, executive director of the American Constitution Society. "They are all extremely mainstream nominees, and the fact of the matter is, the Republicans are trying to show the president that they're in control."

Extremely mainstream?  What does that mean?  And can any rational person say that Goodwin Liu is more "mainstream" than the man he opposed for not being "mainstream," Samuel Alito?

How do we measure out-of-the-mainstreamness?  If we somewhat simplistically consider a single-dimension liberal-conservative scale, then the obvious measure of out-of-mainstreamness would be the absolute value of the difference between the nominee's position on that scale and that of the median American voter.  By no stretch of the imagination is Goodwin Liu closer to the median voter than Samuel Alito or, for that matter, Miguel Estrada.

So how can people who opposed nominees of the previous administration on this ground assert that Liu is "mainstream" or even "extremely mainstream"?  The only explanation I can think of is that they are using some other benchmark than the median voter.  They must be measuring "mainstreamness" relative to the median academic or perhaps just relative to themselves.

There are many prior posts on this topic on the blog.  Three of them are here, here, and here.

Oh, one more thing.  The story says, "The disappointment has been acute for the Asian-American community, which has closely watched Liu's nomination," and quotes Vincent Eng of the Asian American Justice Center.  I was not aware that there had been an election in "the Asian-American community" to elect a spokesman who is entitled to speak for all Asian-Americans.  None of those that I know give a hoot about this nomination.

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