The tawdry denouement to the Clarence Thomas hearings can only be viewed as the inevitable result of the perverse tendency of the American people to elect divided government. First we elect a president who promises to choose judicial nominees to do certain things -- to overrule Roe vs. Wade, to "lock 'em up and throw away the key," or to do all sorts of extreme things. Then we elect senators and demand that they not to confirm that president's nominees.
Robert Bork is the best example. He was nominated in accordance with promises Ronald Reagan made in 1980 and 1984. Once he was nominated, however, a majority of the Senate responded to an outcry to keep this "extremist" off the Supreme Court. Despite the insistence of such unregenerate Bork defenders as the Wall Street Journal that the senators who opposed Bork's confirmation were going against the wishes of the people, virtually every senator who voted against Bork still sits in the Senate; some have been re-elected since then.
Given Thomas' public comments over the years, it was reasonable to conclude that he would be a black Bork on the Supreme Court -- that he would overturn decisions on affirmative action, abortion rights or the rights of the accused. His subsequent "confirmation conversion" could hardly erase these suspicions.