Amid the most contentious Supreme Court confirmation fight in decades, the Senate’s Republican majority appears dead-set on bringing this process to a successful conclusion. Unmoved by the poignancy of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, and unfazed by a groundswell of opposition or the appearance of untruthfulness, Majority Leader McConnell has promised a vote by week’s end.
To the dismay of many, the odds in favor of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the High Court are likely higher than some would prefer to acknowledge. As it stands, Republicans effectively plan to hold the confirmation vote before the ink on the FBI’s report has a chance to dry, and they clearly harbor no intentions of releasing those findings to the public.
Nevertheless, McConnell and company seem to be going all-in to secure conservative dominion over the nation’s highest court. And while Republicans may have done well to temporarily gin-up their base by launching a steadfast defense of Kavanaugh, their attempts to steamroll his confirmation may well cripple the party’s hopes of achieving electoral success in November.
It makes one wonder why a veteran political operative would run a veritable two-minute offense when his team already possessed a lead and only needed to run out the game clock. Why he’d drive his party toward the ballot box cemetery in an effort to back an increasingly unpopular nominee who had walked himself into numerous minefields, rather than move to box-in the opposition. Why he’d act like a mindless battering ram rather than a savant, refraining from laying the groundwork for a contingency plan capable of not only placing a conservative on the Supreme Court, but mitigating the all but inevitable incoming midterm damage.
Imagine for a moment if you will, that when the FBI’s report eventually leaks to the public in the wake of Kavanaugh’s crowning, that it’s void of evidence which vindicates the Supreme Court’s newest justice, or may even support—to any appreciable extent— the allegations levied by Dr. Ford. Let’s ponder for a minute, a scenario in which a large portion of the American populace, already nauseated over the GOP’s opaqueness and indifference, learns that evidence even partially corroborating Dr. Ford’s claims had been provided to Republicans by vaunted impartial investigators ahead of the vote. Perhaps more suspicion-stirring yet, imagine that the public finds out that the GOP actually handcuffed an already impaired investigation, that those in power never granted the FBI approval to interview either Dr. Ford or Kavanaugh. Let us even envision a probable scenario in which the FBI’s hamstrung investigation leaves the matter as an asterisk-rich “he said she said” situation, or unearths furthers doubts about the truthfulness of Kavanaugh’s testimony.
So let’s step into the shoes of Mitch McConnell, let’s play devil’s advocate and consider the hypothetical. Let’s envision a course of action in which Saturday’s planned vote on Kavanaugh was pushed back until the middle of next week. A path in which members of the Senate were provided not only with a modicum of meaningful time exceeding a couple of hours to review the FBI’s findings, but the opportunity to partake in a clarification-conducive and in-depth briefing by FBI personnel. Imagine also that the American public is provided with a summary of both findings and methodology, that the GOP has time to carefully check the pulse of the electorate before acting with great consequence.
Imagine if, amid ferocious outcry over the absence of exonerating evidence, that rather than marching his colleagues toward the certain to fade glimmer of base enthusiasm and over a cliff, that McConnell informed the White House that sufficient votes could not be whipped. That pressure was exerted to not only force the withdrawal of Kavanaugh’s now toxic nomination, but equal pressure was applied to guide the president toward the selection of a pragmatic replacement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
In that selection, Republicans would find themselves hopping into the trenches alongside a reliably-staunch conservative and an originalist in the Antonin Scalia mold. An Ivy League duopoly-busting Notre Dame-educated nominee hailing from Middle America, not the beltway of the oft-maligned elites. A previously-vetted nominee who ostensibly isn’t anchored to a controversy-laden past, and is unencumbered by a concerning paper trail. Moreover, and perhaps more shrewdly, by facilitating the replacement of a man facing numerous allegations of sexual assault with a woman, Republicans could likely limit their hemorrhaging of female support and take much of the wind out of the Democrats’ sails.
With all of that having been said, it’s both odd and suspicious that McConnell remains committed to hustling this process at the risk of undermining his own increasingly fragile position. That he appears to have bought into the hype of a lasting “red wave“, an apparent denial of the tandem reality that victory breeds complacency and that rage isn’t necessarily transferable. It’s beyond bizarre that a seasoned senator would sacrifice both his peripheral vision and potentially copious amounts of limited political capital when he could have his cake and eat it too.
(Featured image “January 2009 Official Portrait of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell” by unknown photographer, as the work of a federal employee the image is within the public domain/cropped from original.)