Elections

The Democrats’ Kavanaugh Gambit Will Swing the Midterms to the GOP

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.) speak to reporters about the FBI’s investigation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 4, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
The public will reward Senate Republicans and President Trump for holding firm.

This is impetuous, but I think the electoral map has changed with the Kavanaugh decision. The Democrats avoided direct confrontation and tried to sandbag the nominee by a late allegation of sexual assault from 30 years before. They gambled that whipping up post-Weinstein militant-feminist support would induce the president to say something outrageous that would split his party and drench him in another momentary shower of confected outrage, such as during the partial migration ban, the Charlottesville imputations of softness toward Nazis and the Klan, the Helsinki comments, and the detention of abandoned minors of illegal immigrants at the southern borders.

This would be the biggest such explosion yet and would leave the Supreme Court vacancy unfilled, assure control of the House for the Democrats, and possibly the Senate, and facilitate grid-lock and continued distractions about impeachment for another two years. Because of the superb handling of the challenge, though it arose late and suddenly, by Trump, Senate leader McConnell, and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Grassley, the Republicans avoided anything offensive to women, avoided arousing further sympathy for the complainant, Christine Blasey Ford, by having her questioned by a special examiner, an Arizona female prosecutor with a background in this area (Rachel Mitchell), and made no effort to discredit the witness or exploit the several implausible elements of her testimony. But it was established that there was no support of any kind for her allegation. The supplementary allegations by Ms. Ramirez (too flimsy for even the New York Times to touch) and a client of the completely unfeasible Michael Avenatti, claiming drug-induced serial gang-rape, debased Dr. Ford’s respectable effort.

The president demonstrated how to exploit the fact that the American system, unlike parliamentary countries, has no leader of the opposition, and why it is so hard to fight something with nothing. Trump discounted Ford’s testimony, at one of his rallies in the interior of the country, because she didn’t remember anything except the supposed name of the assailant. But Dr. Ford was subjected to no verbal abuse, even as Democratic demonstrators surged through the Capitol and banged on the doors of the Supreme Court and represented Judge Kavanaugh as an unindicted rapist. Senator Susan Collins delivered a temperate and legally learned summary of why Kavanaugh was an appropriate nominee, why the civil law criterion of balance of probabilities — “More likely than not” — had not been met, and why the presumption of innocence and rule of law required his confirmation. It was more powerful and unanswerable than anything the president could have said or done, and it came after the supplementary FBI investigation, which Never Trumper Senator Flake had requested, confirmed that there was no evidence of Kavanaugh’s guilt, and the judge was confirmed.

The Democrats, as they have no leader of any moral authority, except perhaps former president Obama, who did not get too involved, scattered. Some pledged to impeach Kavanaugh, some promised that militant feminism and guilt-by-denunciation would prevail, some grumbled that Kavanaugh lacked the judicial temperament to be a high-court judge. The coup de grâce to the credibility of the Democratic opposition was delivered by Hillary Clinton solemnly announcing that Kavanaugh lacked the “integrity and stability” for his position, and that the White House ceremony inaugurating him publicly (Kavanaugh was privately sworn by the chief justice a couple of hours after confirmation) was an undignified partisan spectacle. In fact, it was exquisitely tasteful, and the new justice declared himself free of any bitterness or recrimination.

It is unlikely that the American public has so soon forgotten the depths of indignity that the Clintons smeared over the presidency, from President Clinton’s tawdry peccadilloes and likely perjury to defeated candidate Clinton’s use of the false Steele dossier that her campaign paid for as evidence of Trump’s “treason” in colluding with the Russians to deprive her of victory in the 2016 election. Not all voters would have forgotten her description of tens of millions of them as “deplorables” and the “dregs of society,” either.

I predict that this bifurcation between the administration and the Republican leaders in the Congress, who treated the Ford allegations and the Never Trumpers and moderate Democrats seriously, and the bulk of the Democrats exploding in wrathful endorsement of conviction-by-denunciation, will tip the political scales for the Republicans. No matter how intimidated many may be by angry and emasculative feminism, the great majority of Americans are in favor of a reasonable facsimile of due process, especially when all the Law and Order, jail’em, flog’em, lynch’em group like the president a lot better than the Democrats anyway. The Republicans had the winning ticket in this sudden crisis, and they kept their nerve and spoke with one eloquent and dispassionate voice in the address of Senator Collins on October 5. The Democrats struck hard and suddenly, and the Republican leaders responded sensibly and moderately and won an enormous victory.

The second factor in making the division of political opinion less starkly even than it has been, I think, is that almost the entire lower 30 percent of income-earners now have prospects of employment, rising purchasing power in their pay envelopes, and a greater sense of belonging in the political system since the era of President Clinton, if not President Reagan, or for the more venerable, President Roosevelt. Now, no one is left behind, and there remains circumstantial evidence that most of the polling organizations still haven’t adjusted their echelon of the voting public to reflect the army of this president’s supporters among those who had rarely voted since the Reagan years because they didn’t identify with any presidential candidate. The entire “one third of a nation . . . at the bottom of the economic pyramid” identified by Franklin D. Roosevelt, parched in austerity and deprivation, is being irrigated with livable wages and real employment. Both the material and psychological consequences will be seen at the voting places next month.

Finally, people are getting used to Trump. He is the president after all, and no sane person now imagines that he can be successfully impeached or can even claim that he is incompetent, no matter how unorthodox his methods, grating some of his foibles, and uncongenial many find some of his policy positions. The midterm elections, instead of intensifying the struggle between Trump and his opponents, will, I hesitantly suggest, entrench him to the next presidential election, enabling him to enact his program and the Democrats to come up with some position other than denouncing Trump and pitching to every atomized and aggrieved sub-group of American society.

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