The Republican controlled process of installing Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court was one of the ugliest and most shameful debacles in the history of American politics and American culture. The GOP took a guy it knew was uniquely unfit, then took extraordinary measures to try to coddle him – and even after he was exposed as a monster, it rammed him through anyway. This was a brutal loss for mainstream Americans. But there was one positive takeaway, which while not intended to make you feel any better about this loss, may help you feel better about the odds of winning the upcoming battles in this awful war.
The Republicans nearly lost this battle. You don’t need to look any further than the mounting rebelling from within the GOP Senate late in the week, some of which spilled into public view, before Mitch McConnell began cracking down from within. The GOP couldn’t find a way to rein in Murkowski, and if it hadn’t done whatever it did to get Collins to go out there and embarrass herself with that hideous speech and accompanying vote, the nomination would have failed.
Is it supposed to make you feel better that we lost this battle by a small margin? No. But what’s important here is that it provided a template for winning. The fatalists within the Resistance thought this vote was in the bag from the start. But if that’s the case, then explain to me why – even as the final vote was approaching – the top Senate Republicans were all conducting themselves from a place of defensiveness and fear.
Maybe it’s because the Democrats, despite having been dealt one of the worst political hands of all time, put on a smart and steady and sustained strategy that nearly worked. They released Kavanaugh’s confidential emails early on. They brought Dr. Ford into the picture at the right time. They coordinated their message and made it strongly resonate with a wide swath of Americans. When you’re in the minority, sometimes there’s no overcoming the math. But the minority managed to turn what could have been a quick and easy confirmation process fort the majority into one which very nearly went over a cliff. We’re not accustomed to seeing this from the Democrats. They fought in a cunning manner, and Senate Republicans aren’t used to being on the wrong side of that. They were clearly annoyed and angered by it, to the point of lashing out in juvenile fashion. Perhaps it outright scared them.
Or maybe the Senate Republicans were acting so fearful because even their thick skulls have a sense of what they’ve unleashed here. They were under orders from their conservative billionaire donor bosses to rubber stamp this guy no matter what, and in the end, they did. But at what cost to them? Women everywhere are outraged, empowered, and more determined than ever to make this insufferable political patriarchy a thing of the past. Plenty of men are on women’s side on this. If the Resistance was an unstoppable force before, it’s a wrecking ball now.
The big myth in politics is that anyone “gets away” with anything. Every political move has consequences, even if those consequences may be delayed, and even if they sometimes materialize in asymmetric fashion. It rarely blows back in fair or just or timely fashion, but it does blow back. When the previous generation’s GOP put Clarence Thomas on the bench, it cost their party dearly in the next election. More women began running for high office and winning. It set off a chain of events that lasted a decade or more. Brett Kavanaugh is an even uglier “screw you” to women, and to people of decency, than Thomas was. Accordingly, the political and cultural blowback will be far more sizable this time.
Keep in mind that we’re in a unique position in which the Democrats have a strong chance to take majority control of the House, and maybe the Senate, very soon. That would put every House committee under Democratic control. It would mean dozens of immediate high profile congressional investigations into the antics and crimes of Donald Trump and every one of his corrupt underlings – including Kavanaugh. This is at a time when the Democrats are finally figuring out how to successfully land punches below the belt, and when mainstream American women and men are more determined than ever to turn this country around.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report