Saturday, October 06, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Midterms, Part 2

So, it looks like Brett Kavanaugh will squeak across the finish line and onto the Supreme Court this morning. In my last post, I mused that some Senate Republicans might be secretly hoping for a defeat here (at the hands of Flake/Collins/Murkowski), just to mobilize the GOP vote in November at his expense.

If so, they aren't getting what they wanted. Flake and Collins have announced they'll be voting to confirm. Murkowski says she'll vote "present." More on them in a minute.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is breaking the Democratic line to vote for confirmation too. Not really surprising. He might well have done so even if it was clear that Kavanaugh was going down. Manchin looks like he's in good shape for re-election -- Real Clear Politics has him up by an average of 9.4% over GOP horse Patrick Morrissey -- but as the RCP updates on the polling note, there are lots of undecideds out there. A no vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation could turn the race into, well, a race.

What are the political angles on Flake, Collins, and Murkowski?

Flake isn't running for re-election. He's campaigning for some as yet unannounced position -- a Trump appointment in the executive branch (ambassador to South Africa, perhaps), or president in 2020 or 2024, or whatever. He's trying to cut this baby in half, Solomon-style. He conditioned his Judiciary Committee vote on a half-assed FBI "investigation" (pleasing Democrats, enraging Republicans) and is now pretending that an actual investigation took place and exonerated Kavanaugh so that he can vote to confirm (pleasing Republicans, enraging Democrats). Will that work out to his benefit? Who knows?

Collins and Murkowski aren't up for re-election this year. What do they hope to get out of a Kavanaugh confirmation? A Senate where they remain powerful as "swing moderate" votes. If the Republicans pick up seats in the Senate, Collins and Murkowski become less powerful, less important, less well-positioned to demand concessions in return for their votes on other things. Sending Kavanaugh to SCOTUS maximizes the Democratic vote in November, reducing the chances of big GOP gains in the Senate. And they have a couple of years for controversy over their yes/present votes to fade from the minds of voters.

As far as Kavanaugh getting onto the court, my own feelings are mixed. In the short term, his big-government, anti-freedom, screw-the-constitution orientation seems likely to produce ugly results that will affect me as much as any other American, so I can't say I'm happy about it. On the other hand, his mere presence on the bench will tend lower the court's reputation even further and call its credibility into question even more. As an anarchist, I'm certainly OK with that.

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