September 7, 2018

Outrage Over Kavanaugh Understandable, May Still Backfire

Judge Brett Michael KavanaughI had hoped to have time to watch at least a few hours of the Kavanaugh hearings, but it was not meant to be. I have been far too busy with work, and I have had to settle mostly for watching clips on assorted news shows. Of course, I have also been bombarded with "the sky is falling" messages from pretty much every left-leaning secular activist group ever since his nomination was announced. Clearly, they are using Kavanaugh for fund-raising. And yes, if this was a liberal judge, right-leaning activist groups would be doing the same.

I don't have any question about whether Kavanaugh is qualified to join the U.S. Supreme Court. It seems clear that he is. Qualifications aside, he certainly wouldn't be my choice. I am concerned about his positions on the separation of church and state, reproductive rights, guns, and a great many other important topics. He's about as far from who I would want on the court as anybody. Unfortunately, I did not get to nominate our next Supreme Court justice. That privilege fell instead to President Donald Trump because he won the 2016 presidential election. And because of the current makeup of Congress, it seems likely that his nominee will join the court.

From what I have seen of the hearings, it looks as though several of the Democrats who may be running for president in 2020 (or simply running to keep their seats in Congress this year) are using the hearings as an opportunity to score points with their base. I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with doing this, but I question how some of them seem to be going about it. I suspect that more than a few will soon find that their behavior during the hearings is going to be used against them by their political opponents. In fact, I have already seen some indication that some on the right are beginning to do just that.

Conservative media will undoubtedly intersperse footage of protestors being removed from the hearings with some of the more unhinged statements by Democrats and use it to scare the voters about the crazy "far left." And although liberals will likely whine about this, it is no different from what Rachel Maddow would do (and has done) if the roles were reversed. Some of the more creative video edits may eventually find their way into campaign ads.

Supporters of which political party will be more inspired by the Kavanaugh hearings to turn out at the polls in the upcoming midterm elections? Will the "blue wave" prevail or will countless Republican voters see the Democratic attacks on their nominee and mobilize to defend what they (almost certainly will) have achieved?

I don't blame anyone on the left for feeling outraged about Kavanaugh. Many still remember Merrick Garland, and many are understandably concerned about what the addition of Kavanaugh may do to the court. I share many of their concerns and at least some of their outrage. Unfortunately, it looks like the Republicans have the votes they need. And so I have to wonder whether this is the best battle for Democrats to be waging right now. Sure, it may help the fund-raising efforts temporarily. But there is something about fighting a losing battle that tends to be demoralizing. If there is one thing Democrats cannot afford, it is demoralized voters.