Since its beginnings, this country has prided itself on a concept referred to as "rule of law". As I understand it, this means that Americans are supposed to be protected from the tyranny of personal opinion, prejudice and emotion in the public sector. Our laws, though man made, are meant to shield us from those who gain an electoral majority and have an axe or two to grind.
It was never a perfect system, and it becomes extremely shaky when the members of the federal judiciary cannot see past their ideological leanings to the spirit of the law itself. And by "the law" I mean not only the writ of the Constitution, but also the interpretation and application of it through the years. That is why the nomination and approval of a judge who's only qualifications are a mediocre mind, a rudimentary knowledge of the law and the proper ideological bent is horrifying.
That is why the presence of Justice Thomas on the court, and the absence of Robert Bork, should both be seen for what they are - potentially destructive acts by small-minded men temporarily occupying positions of authority.