After a tumultuous few weeks, the United States Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to his lifetime appointment as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Liberal groups have lamented his nomination from the beginning, and although vigorous in their protestations, his success was all but guaranteed upon his nomination. Susan Collins, widely considered the swing vote in his road to confirmation, had apparently telegraphed to the White House from the beginning that she intended to vote for Kavanaugh. In her near-hourlong speech Friday, it was obvious from the beginning that she would vote in the affirmative. The crux of her argument emphasized the presumption of innocence and, ultimately, how in her opinion the case against the judge fell short.
As I wrote earlier, without more evidence or substantiated allegations, I figured that the nomination would carry on. The largest unknown that I addressed in that column was the effect that Kavanaugh might have on midterm elections. Though the appointment is for life, we will feel the political repercussions in just one month. Polls indicate that the backlash to the “smear campaign” against Kavanaugh lit a fire under conservative voters. The possibility of losing a generation of conservative dominance in the highest court excited them as nothing else could. Indeed, this is one place where President Trump is able to corral the often disparate actions of the Republican Party; irrespective of their differences on issues of trade, immigration or temperament in general, conservatives understand and value the ramifications of a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. Democrats would be wise to mimic their determination.
In fact, had Democrats taken seriously the threat of a Trump presidency, they would have turned out in droves during the fall of 2016 to secure Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Court. Alas, that time is past. Moving forward, though, the Kavanaugh confirmation should actually be a boon for Democrats.
Polls in recent weeks, as I mentioned, have shown a renewed vigor in the conservative base. Fearing his confirmation was in jeopardy, Republican voters were ready to flock to the polls to protect their majorities. Now, we have to wait and see how the polls change since his ascension to the Court. As many have speculated, the Republican victory in confirming him may cause their gains in enthusiasm to dissipate. For Democrats, the opposite is true. Democratic energy seems to have waned somewhat from its peak in the summer, but anger over the loss of another Supreme Court seat could be the needed impetus for November gains.
I could be wrong, but retaking the Senate this year looks like a fool’s errand. Despite his impressive campaign, Beto O’Rourke will likely fall short by a few points. That’s no small feat in Texas, of course, but the state just isn’t ready to turn purple. Continued demographic shifts could make it competitive in the future, but not in 2018. Similarly, Georgia looks like it could be moving toward a competitive status in the near future, but this year it isn’t. Democrats would do better in shoring up seats they already hold, without becoming too ambitious. Missouri and New Jersey, of all places, are tight races for Democrats. They should focus more on maintaining the seats they have now than pouring money into bank-shots like Texas and Tennessee. Granted, you can’t win if you don’t compete, but I fear Beto will become another Jon Ossoff: an attractive candidate that receives an inordinate amount of money that could’ve been used elsewhere.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.