Many failed actors work as waitstaff, or move back in with their parents. Some spiral into heroin addiction, prostitution or death. But it could be worse: a number end up in the United States Senate.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee lent further credence to my long-held belief that anyone who declares an interest in running for political office should be committed to an asylum. The hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson bore closer resemblance to a remedial acting class than the inner democratic workings of a somewhat serious country.

The right have been gorging on the...

Many failed actors work as waitstaff, or move back in with their parents. Some spiral into heroin addiction, prostitution or death. But it could be worse: a number end up in the United States Senate.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee lent further credence to my long-held belief that anyone who declares an interest in running for political office should be committed to an asylum. The hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson bore closer resemblance to a remedial acting class than the inner democratic workings of a somewhat serious country.

The right have been gorging on the clip of Democratic presidential hopeful Cory Booker giving it the full Olivier in his remarks to the judge. The flamboyant senator gesticulates wildly as he breathily orates about Langston Hughes, LGBTQ Americans and hidden figures, bringing Jackson to tears.

But frankly, the Republicans on the Committee haven’t been much better. Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz — see the pattern? — waved a copy of Antiracist Baby around and got into bickering matches with his colleagues… then searched for his own name on Twitter right after.

(Cruz, in fact, has been hamming it up for the cameras for decades, as evidenced by this clip of him in high school describing his aspirations as wanting to “be in a teen tit film like that guy who played Horatio” and “take over the world, rule everything, rich, powerful, that sort of stuff.”)

And Cruz’s colleague Lindsey Graham, who too ran for the White House in 2016, threw a temper tantrum about Guantanamo detainees in the Afghan government before storming out of the hearing.

Judge Jackson’s answers have made significantly fewer waves than the questions and the questioners — most of whom seem to be angling to cut a clip for their next campaign ad.

The drama has unfolded in a similar fashion to the recent Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett hearings — though frankly you can trace the theatrics back as far as Ted Kennedy’s scything of Robert Bork back in the Eighties. It also follows what McKay Coppins identified as the Newt Gingrich blueprint: in the Nineties, the House Speaker “recognized an opportunity in the newly installed C-Span cameras, and began delivering tirades against Democrats to an empty chamber, knowing that his remarks would be beamed to viewers across the country.”

Televising what should be a dull procedural job interview can have dangerous consequences: arguably, the calamity of Kamala Harris’s vice presidency has its roots in the public profile she cultivated on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Politics is already show business for ugly people. The search for viral moments in government proceedings is deepening this further, meaning that — yes, even more so than now — the halls of Congress will be staffed by attention-starved, status-driven egomaniacs who will drive the greatest democracy to ever exist into ruin.

Senator Ben Sasse acknowledged this in Wednesday’s hearings, when the topic of TV cameras in the Supreme Court came up. “”Cameras change human behavior,” Sasse continued. “I think we should recognize that the jackassery we often see around here is partly because of people mugging for short-term camera opportunities,” the Nebraska Republican said. In a soothing moment of bipartisanship, his Democratic colleague, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy, agreed, when he chided Cruz: “I know the junior senator from Texas likes to be on television. But most of us…like to follow the rules.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee should play host to candidates who treat justice seriously and soberly — not failed theater kids desperately seeking the spotlight.