A story from a long time ago: the first year I taught full-time for real pay (not being a TA in grad school, etc.) was also the year my oldest son was born. My family bought our first house and our first minivan. We were as flush with cash as we have ever been, before or since (even though we make more than double what we did back then, kids are expensive). Since school starts in late August, I pretty much only got paid for 4 months in the 1994 calendar year. When tax time came, we came in below the poverty line, and qualified for the earned income child credit (and it was a decent-sized check, about $2000). Now, I'm conservative. I don't much care for the credit in principle. I really hate welfare fraud. And I cashed the check without hesitation. We didn't lie or cheat in any way, and if those were the rules, I sure as heck wasn't going to turn down the money.
Not long after, we had a statewide referendum on the lottery. I voted against it. I hate the lottery--it's a voluntary tax on those folks who can't do math, and takes money from the poor and uneducated to give to middle-class families so they can send their kids to colleges they would have attended anyway (where they, too, will become too educated to play the lottery). But in a couple of years, when my oldest goes off to college, I'll gladly take the lottery-funded scholarships.
Let's apply that to the upcoming confirmation hearings for soon-to-be Justice Kagan. Should republicans vote to confirm her? I'd love to say yes. I honestly believe that when a properly-elected president nominates a qualified person to the court, the senate ought to confirm. Scalia and Ginburg both got over 95 votes for confirmation. However, those are not the rules anymore. Bork got borked. Thomas got "a high-tech lynching." Then-senator Obama voted to filibuster Alito, and against confirming Chief Justice Roberts (both of whom are, in objective and non-ideological terms, many times more qualified than Kagan). If both sides would go back to the Scalia standard, I'd be all in favor of it. But there is nothing heroic about sticking to the Marquess of Queensbury Rules if your opponent is employing mixed martial arts.
What do you think? Am I a hypocrite, or a realist?