A thing that has been not entirely appreciated about the Kavanaugh affair: This was the Left’s version of Pizzagate. And the Democrats’ Pizzagate wasn’t carried out by fringe nutters on obscure conspiracy sites: It was carried out by Senate Democrats and leading progressive activists on well-known conspiracy sites such as the New York Times opinion section.
A fair number of putatively respectable thought-leaders and opinion-makers extended the cover of their reputations over a series of increasingly bizarre and unlikely allegations for which there was essentially no evidence. (Why was there no evidence? The most likely explanation is that the claims were not true; but, of course, conspiracy theorists always take a lack of evidence as evidence of the conspiracy. “That’s just what you’d expect to see!” etc.) Of course, there will be no reckoning for this, because there never is. That’s the nice thing about having your political and cultural allies in charge of institutions such as the New York Times and the Yale Law School.
Senate Republicans surprised some people in showing some spine. About that, two things: One, a great many people have lost out betting against Mitch McConnell; two, the election of and continuing support for Donald Trump has made congressional Republicans a good deal more afraid of their voters than they are of the New York Times editorial page, which has long been shrill and hysterically partisan but which now is so shrill and hysterically partisan that even those Republicans more sensitive to institutional progressive opinion are simply rolling their eyes at it. (There’s an opportunity there for the Washington Post, I think, and maybe for a couple of other liberal-leaning institutions.) I am not an admirer of the populist impulse, but there are times when it makes sense to take “Yes” for an answer.
The Democrats have some soul-searching to do. In the Kavanaugh matter, they debased themselves, the Senate, and democratic discourse all at the same time — and they have squat to show for it. Playing dirty comes naturally to them, and they don’t seem to mind the muck. But playing dirty — this dirty — and losing? That’s some shameful stuff.