An axiom: anything that can be done to win in politics, will be done.
Winning doesn’t have to mean getting your side’s officials elected, your legislation passed & signed into law, or your appointees confirmed. It could mean denying your opponents their priorities.
Or it could mean delegitimizing a Supreme Court appointee, forever, in the eyes of a significant chunk of the American public.
With zero corroborating evidence and without control of either the Senate or the presidency, the Democrats have convinced their base that a rapist has ascended to the highest court in the land.
The Kavanaugh appointment will carry with it a weighty asterisk for as long as he serves. A certain portion of the #Resistance Left will sneer at every opinion he pens and every decision of which he is the fifth vote. Well he’s a rapist and a drunk, they will mutter angrily, nursing their manifold grievances. Journalists will gravely note that his appointment was “highly controversial”. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) drove home the new party line this week: “He’s going to be on the Supreme Court with a huge taint and a big asterisk after his name.”
It is our clamoring media establishment, which trades in outrage and has abandoned all pretense of objectivity to fight Trump, that provides the bludgeon the Left uses to destroy its enemies; the cacophony they are able to produce is unparalleled, not just in the mainstream outlets (MSNBC, CNN, NPR, NYT), but across faux-politics late night TV, celebrity social feeds that reach hundreds of millions, in the classroom, and on the pages of woke Teen Vogue.
All the Democrats need to do is raise serious questions about a nominee, and the media – eager for salacious content of the type that also serves their ideological goals – will create a blizzard of noise that can bury a person.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-high school acting class) pontificated on this Democratic playbook during the hearings: It doesn’t matter “whether [Judge Kavanaugh] is innocent or guilty… ultimately, have enough questions been raised” about him? Questions are easy to come by if the standard of proof is “believe any and all accusers,” as Democratic grandees have confirmed over and over again.
The next target for such question-raising will be a nominee to a high court, and likely will be a choice known to Republicans and Democrats alike; after all, then-candidate Trump ran on, and has repeatedly referenced, a list of over 20 judges supplied from the Federalist Society, from which both Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch were drawn.
There exists an expansive net of dark money, opposition research and public affairs firms-for-hire that form a deep undercurrent of our political system; this force can identify and produce accusations at a level of sophistication that would be impossible to track and digest for the voting public. It can create a multitude of Fords, Ramirezes and Swetnicks, ready to “step forward” in a manner that seems organic rather than contrived at the next nomination.
Straight male jurists will be subject to charges of sexual abuse, harassment and assault – if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, right? Female nominees will not be vulnerable to such charges, but a few well-placed incidents of racist or homophobic comments would be enough to wrench the public, like a swimmer in a riptide, into a debate about whether racism or homophobia are wrong, and the specific merits of the nominee will be lost in a sea of outrage.
Republicans must prepare ahead of time, and respond with their own media campaigns to bolster nominees and define them positively before they can be smeared. A tactical lesson for the future amidst the rancor of the nomination brawl: Brett Kavanaugh and his team did this very well, defining him as a heartfelt supporter of women throughout his life, in a way that made (especially) conservative-leaning women sympathetic to his cause. This was enough to heed off, just barely, the Democratic plot that was incubating in Senator Feinstein’s office.
Major judicial appointments have now become a gladiator arena, and each nominee will need enough of the voting public to have their thumbs up once the dust settles. These battles will be waged not on the merits of judicial temperament but on the standards of an angry and fast-shifting public.
Are Republicans ready for the fights ahead?