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What the Devil won't tell you

Kavanaugh's confirmation was secured back when Dems couldn't be bothered

Mid-term apathy leads to #MeToo outrage; Persistence trumps resistance

If you watched West Viriginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s announcement that he would support Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court, and you've decided that it doesn’t matter which party is in charge, then you are the reason Kavanaugh was sworn in as the newest associate justice.

No, Democrats couldn’t stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

The time to stop Kavanaugh was never 2018. It was 2016. It was 2014. It was 2012. Those three elections allowed a Republican to nominate a justice and established a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. Hey, the elections of 2010 or even 2004 would have taken oomph out of his appointment.

Which outraged readers worked to elect former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona when he ran for the Senate? He lost U.S. Rep. Jeff "Hamlet" Flake by just three percentage points. Flip that just that one seat and the Senate would be 50-50 today.

Caring about the courts means caring about the U.S. Senate. As a guy who mainlines politics and history, I can tell you the Republicans would take the bargain price of trading Congress and the White House for a 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. In fact, if Democrats would have offered to repeal Obamacare in return for Associate Justice Merrick Garland, Mitch McConnell would have laughed the Dems right out onto the National Mall.

The high court edits the rules we live by. The court has been split 4-4 between the liberals and conservatives. So Brett Kavanaugh will be the final, irreversible, immutable word on how the American experience is made manifest in law.

But … y’know … Hillary ... she had those emails....

Then the country learned Judge Kavanaugh faced an allegation of attempted rape and the klaxons went off. Oh my God. How do we stop this atrocity? Shame! Shame! Shame!

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In the coldest, most bracing slap to the left cheeks I can muster, it pains me to say the GOP put him on the court the old-fashioned way. They earned the right.

Republicans, see, are serious. Democrats have yet to prove they are. Conservatives work for power. Progressives craft elaborate purity tests for the candidates they might support, perhaps, in an effort to remake the world in their image. The Right attacks elections with vigor that the Left rarely seems to muster. The Right sees the vote as a transaction. The Left treats its votes like its virginity. It will only give it away to the one who really understands them and truly respects and loves them.

It looks like this: Just once (2004) since 2000 have Democrats failed to turn out less than 65 million votes during presidential campaigns. In just one midterm have they mustered more than 40 million votes (2006) during a midterm. So they lost them all.

Here’s how it will look in practice: Someday, perhaps, the Left’s great political realignment will sweep them into power. They’ll secure the 60 votes for Medicare for All. Then the Supreme Court will get a hold of it. And the Left will be at the mercy of Roberts, Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, who will have the final veto of an American single-payer system. How do you think that's going to work out?

So, progressives, you got Kavanaugh. John Roberts is the new swing vote and he swings like Stonehenge. Once ever 10 years, the soil will move beneath him and he’ll shift a tiny bit to the left.

Yes, it was bad

I spent a half-hour on Bruce Ash’s radio show Saturday, courtesy of my friend and local conservative malcontent Jim Kelley, arguing the following: The investigation into Kavanaugh’s background was a sham. The spectacle of it all wasn’t Democrats raising of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation, but the GOP turning things into a sideshow of bitchiness about the fact the country even had to discuss such matters.

Then I went toe-to-toe with former Pima County Republican Party Chairman Bill Beard, arguing that the timing of the charges wasn’t a plot. Justice Anthony Kennedy resigned over the summer and the Republicans took August off — guaranteeing the hearings would run headlong into the midterms. Blasey Ford first started telling people of her allegations back when Kavanaugh was on the short list.

I know, I know. The Republicans cheated. They blocked the duly nominated Merrick Garland.

I'm not arguing to the contrary now.

But Jim, Bill, congratulations — and not in a snotty way.

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Republicans won fair and square. The Federalist Society and movement conservatives spent decades preparing the ground to win the court. They plotted and schemed because cunning and guile is every bit as required in politics as hope and change.

You have to be in charge to bend the rules.

And you can't bitch about the fix being in when you sit out elections. Threatening to sit out more will only make the problem worse for your side.

The surge that wasn't

Here’s one for you. In 2004, George W. Bush won reelection with 62 million votes and the Rs picked up four seats in the Senate. In 2008, U.S. Sen. John McCain got knocked silly with 62 million votes after Barack Obama magically found 10 million more votes than had been cast for John Kerry in the preceding cycle. Had Obama’s voters showed up in 2004, Democrats would have been in a position to retake the Senate by swinging five percentage points in key races in Alaska, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and South Dakota. They would have lost South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana but the wins would have been enough to gain a one-seat edge in the upper chamber.

The voters were there. But their votes weren't cast. It just wasn't important enough for them to show up that year.

Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement in July 2005. Her husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she wanted to spend some time with him while he still remembered her. The poet in me says that’s a romantic act of devotion (with a tragic turn) if there ever was one. The rank opportunist in me says that was going to happen if Kerry were president or Bush were in the Oval Office.

That's a seat that could've been filled by a liberal.

In Sept. 2005, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died.

That's another seat for a liberal, under a Democratic White House.

President Kerry would have replaced two conservatives with justices well to the left of Roberts and Alito. The balance would have tipped 6-3 to the liberals.

Yeah, but Kerry was nice and all, and reliably liberal but there was no chemistry with the most left-wing of voters.

Right there for the taking

Along came 2016 and a liberal majority was right there for the liberals to seize. The Supreme Court was right there. Antonin Scalia went to his great reward. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell vowed Obama would not replace the conservative icon ahead of the election.

That meant Democrats only had to show up in enough force to prevent the election of a malevolent game-show host and the court would have belonged to progressives.

The election was decided by 70,000 votes, and Kavanaugh is no longer just the best basketball player on the DC Circuit.

Bernie-bots who said there was no difference then are wearing pink hats now. As victims of sexual assault feel shoved aside and patronized, the Sanders enthusiasts can take heart in how they taught former party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz a lesson or two about tipping the primary scales for Clinton. 

Needless whooping

Never mind the justices, Democrats lost the chance to stock the jury box in the U.S. Senate.

In 2010, about 30 million fewer Democratic voters found their way to polling places than had surged two years earlier.

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What was the point?

Six Senate seats was the point.

Democrats had no sooner won the 2012 general then they were conceding the 2014 midterm. Bad map. Bad rollout of Obamacare’s website. Tan suits, ISIS and ebola. The party establishment bears some blame. They coaxed candidates to run away from Obama and then seemed disappointed when the Obama coalition failed to materialize. 

That will be nine more Republican Senate seats and 15 in two midterms.

Republican turnout was off, as well, by about 30 percent from the previous general elections. It was both enough to prevail and easily surmountable.

The long game

Conservatives fought long and hard for this day because the Reagan Revolution is now complete. Welfare is scaled back along with top-end tax rates. Unions have been tamed. The stock market is 2,600 percent higher than when the Gipper took office. Wages are flat since his election. The Voting Rights Act is in tatters. It’s legal for the religious right to discriminate against gays. Multinational corporations now are gaining civil rights. This weekend, conservatives secured a 5-4 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A baby born the night Ronald Reagan was elected will turn 38 on Nov. 4. That’s how long they waited. That’s how much patience the GOP showed. That’s how persistence persists until it wins.

I'm already hearing talk about court-packing plans and impeachment to immediately undo what has taken 40 years to get done. The party of culture doesn't want to hear anything about four decades. That's 10 Avengers movies from now. To even talk about drastic measures would require ending the 60-vote filibuster requirement. Let me ask you progressives: If you find it hard to win midterms are you surrrrrreeee you want to give Mitch McConnell that much power?

No one needs a reason to vote for Republican Rep. Martha McSally over Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. Maybe you just like the cut of Martha’s jib. Maybe you don’t like Kyrsten’s transition from a voice of the Greens to a Blue Dog moderate. That's legit. I can absolutely see why a centrist Democrat might throw in with McSally.

But if Kavanaugh’s elevation bugs you as much as corporate personhood, then there’s only one safe space and that’s inside the bubble on the ballot next to Sinema’s name. Or here’s an idea – maybe someday the bubble next to your name. That's the bubble Democrats might wanna start owning.

Progressives are wonderful at shouting and going limp when the cops show up. They are great at direct-action outrage. They go viral with their cleansing primal screams.

If you are gripped by the need to head Downtown to protest Kavanaugh, maybe instead walk a neighborhood or work a phone bank.

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This is the same argument I make to Republicans in local politics to play the playable game, instead of just bitching about what happens when they fail to show up.

Persistence trumps resistance.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

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1 comment on this story

Oct 8, 2018, 4:52 pm
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Painful truth.  One comment - the Republicans have been deliberately working toward this goal for even than you suggest.  One of the clearest articulations of their strategy was written in 1971 by Lewis Powell (then working with the US Chamber of Commerce, but soon to be elevated by Nixon to the Supreme Court) in what is now known as the Powell memo: “Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.” Sourced from Bill Moyers - The Powell Memo

To be effective, Democrats must also be willing to look at strategies that take decades to bear fruit.  Those of us who are older than the Powell memo must be willing to work for goals we may not live to see.

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Days of protests against Supreme Court nominee – now justice – Brett Kavanaugh continued at the Capitol as the Senate was confirming him.


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