It is entirely predictable that conservatives are strenuously defending Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from attacks on his record and jurisprudence from progressives with a different view of the Constitution. It’s also unsurprising that those who really want to see him shape an enduring conservative majority on the Court are disinclined to believe (or frankly, to care about) the women who have come forward to accuse him of committing sexual assaults in his high school and college years.
But there is now a strident and frankly substance-free mood among Kavanaugh’s conservatives defenders that is almost defiant in rejecting the accusations against him, and uninterested in alternative strategies for vindicating their constitutional views. Like the conservatives who came around to support for Donald Trump in 2016, they seem to have focused on fury at their ancient left-of-center enemies. And even though they could pay a high price if Kavanaugh goes down, his confirmation has become for them an end in itself.
National Review was a hotbed of support for a SCOTUS nomination of Kavanaugh rival Amy Comey Barrett. She is by near-unanimous assent the most likely substitute for Kavanaugh if he is withdrawn or is defeated. But the editors of NR now treat his confirmation as imperative:
Brett Kavanaugh is an excellent jurist who has earned his sterling reputation over decades of public service. If his career is going to be ruined and his reputation besmirched, it should require clear and convincing evidence. We are willing to follow the facts wherever they lead, but so far, they lead only to the belief that this is a disgraceful episode that makes Borking look above-board and responsible by comparison.
If Republicans surrender on the basis of what we know now, they will face the fury of their own voters — and rightly so.
The more Trumpian, “populist” corners of the conservative commentariat are treating the GOP’s willingness to fight to the end for this classically coastal elite nominee as an unconditional obligation that will destroy the Republican Party if it fails. The Federalist’s Sean Davis treats any surrender over Kavanaugh as guaranteeing a deserved midterm disaster:
Republican lawmakers have to understand that their voters have zero patience for their excuses for not doing what they promised. It’s why they elected Trump in the first place. Republican senators failed to repeal Obamacare after promising to do so for years. That was strike one. They’ve steadfastly refused to secure the border, let alone build a barrier along the most porous sections of the nation’s border with Mexico. That was strike two.
A refusal to vote to confirm Kavanaugh in the face of a blatantly obvious Democrat smear campaign, orchestrated in concert with a compliant and obscenely partisan national media, will be strike three, and there will be no more at-bats. I have spent a career working in and covering politics, and I have never witnessed the kind of anger among rank-and-file GOP voters generated from a combination of the unsubstantiated Democrat attacks on Kavanaugh and the flaccid response of emasculated Republicans.
Again, this rage is overcoming the rational calculation that with a vast bench of Federalist Society–vetted SCOTUS prospects, and a strong likelihood that Republicans will hang onto the Senate, there’s no reason to panic, or to lash the GOP’s prospects to Kavanaugh like Odysseus tied to the mast in the land of the Sirens.
You have to wonder if partisanship aside, the gender tensions at the heart of the factual dispute over Kavanaugh’s history and character aren’t driving some conservative men into a macho frenzy, as illustrated by Townhall’s Kurt Schlichter:
The GOP is, as usual, afraid to be seen as insufficiently submissive. We have Chuck Grassley announcing, by tweets that sound like they were composed by a twelve-year-old texting her girlfriends after breaking into mom’s cooking sherry, that he’s ready to roll over yet again. The only way this could get worse is if the crusty Iowan discovered emojis….
No. Hold the vote, confirm Kavanaugh, and then let him set about making the libs sorry they ever pulled this stunt.
And so, the Georgetown Prep and double-Yale graduate Brett Kavanaugh, raised in the very swamp of Washington, is becoming an icon to MAGA people everywhere. Some of his backers seem to consider him near-immortal, as reflected in this vow from Christian-right warhorse Ralph Reed:
[W]e are going to confirm Brett Kavanaugh and he’s going to spend the next 50 years on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Reed said, to cheers.
If 103-year-old Kavanaugh is still on the Court in 2068, perhaps the extravagant faith being placed on him by conservatives will be justified.