SAN DIEGO — On judicial nominations, here's a refresher course.
Civics 101 says the president — no matter which party he or she belongs to — picks federal judges, including Supreme Court justices.
Politics 101 says the party that doesn't hold the presidency, and thus doesn't get to choose, can be counted on to complain about the pick.
And Constitution 101 gives senators the power to advise and consent — not to override the president's choice and install their own.
All of this is at play in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, whom Democrats are gearing up to attack both professionally and personally.
The party of John F. Kennedy — a Massachusetts Democrat who became the nation's only Catholic president only after overcoming a bigoted attack on his faith during his 1960 campaign — seems to have been scared off from Plan A, a religious test that fails anyone who takes religion seriously.
Barrett was subjected to just such a test when she was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2017.
Plan B is to suggest that if Barrett makes it to the high court, she will throw in with a conservative majority and revamp public policy in pursuit of a radical right-wing agenda.
Want to keep the Affordable Care Act? Well then, Democrats say, Barrett must be defeated.
Whereas the Plan A attack on Barrett's faith is specific to her, Plan B would apply to any conservative nominee that President Donald Trump would put forth.
Trying to predict what a federal judge with a lifetime appointment is going to do is a fool's errand. In fact, the only reason that the ACA is still on the books is because Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the health-care law in a case a few years ago, much to the chagrin of anti-Obamacare conservatives.
So this new line of attack from Democrats against Barrett isn't just inappropriate, but it's also illogical.
In her opening statement, Barrett tried to put her critics at ease.
"Courts have a vital responsibility to enforce the rule of law, which is critical to a free society," she said. "But courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life. The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people."
For some perspective, let's recall a couple of past judicial nomination dramas that took place over seats for the lower federal courts.
These spectacles are usually all about fear — of losing power, of watching the courts become too extreme, of overturning legal precedent.
Take it from a Latino journalist, America's largest minority knows all about fear. We have to combat fear ginned up by people such as Trump, who wants you to believe that Mexicans are rapists, criminals and drug traffickers. Latinos also have to put up with fear that we're going to take jobs, change neighborhoods, crowd schools, overrun hospitals, erode national identity, and drown out the English language.
With Latinos, to know us is to fear us.
So it's fitting that over the past 20 years Latinos witnessed fear-driven attacks on supremely qualified Latino federal court nominees by senators in the opposing party — attacks from both sides of the aisle.
The nominees were Mexican American lawyer named Enrique Moreno, who was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1999, for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and a Honduran American lawyer named Miguel Estrada, whom President George W. Bush nominated in 2001 to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Moreno and Estrada belonged to different parties. But they were both graduates of Harvard University's law school, and they were well-respected by their peers in the legal community. And both took a lot of unfair abuse from senators in the opposing party who mistakenly thought they were the president. In the end, both nominations were withdrawn.
Here's the deal with federal judges, including those on the Supreme Court. Senators hear out a nominee. They vote. And they take their chances.
It's how we preserve the independence of the judiciary and keep it from becoming just another political arm of government.
Want to pick federal judges? Win presidential elections. To the victor goes the spoils. The vanquished should go quietly.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at email@example.com.