Un­fair smear of Ka­vanaugh cost Democrats the Se­nate

Dayton Daily News - - IDEAS & VOICES - Marc A. Thiessen

of­fices — thrown out by vot­ers fu­ri­ous over their party’s bru­tal cam­paign of char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion against Ka­vanaugh. Sen. Joe Manchin, W.Va., was the only Demo­crat who voted for Ka­vanaugh, and he sur­vived — but just barely.

The Democrats’ smear cam­paign also cost them the chance to pick up GOP seats. In Ten­nessee, Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn was trail­ing for­mer Demo­cratic gov­er­nor Phil Bre­desen by five points in a CNN poll be­fore the Ka­vanaugh hear­ings. She ended up win­ning by just un­der 11 points, as the Democrats’ mis­treat­ment of Ka­vanaugh united Ten­nessee Repub­li­cans be­hind her.

None of that might have been pos­si­ble had it not been for the Democrats’ hor­rific treat­ment of Ka­vanaugh. As Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell put it, the failed ef­fort to stop Ka­vanaugh was “like an adren­a­line shot” for the GOP base. Repub­li­can vot­ers were out­raged to see a good man ac­cused, with­out a shred of cor­rob­o­ra­tion, of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a teenage girl, ex­pos­ing him­self to a col­lege class­mate and par­tic­i­pat­ing in gang rapes in high school. They were dis­gusted by Se­nate Democrats’ in­sis­tence that the bur­den was on Ka­vanaugh to prove he didn’t do it and by Democrats’ bla­tant dis­re­gard for the pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence. They were energized by Ka­vanaugh’s will­ing­ness to fight back and de­clare his treat­ment by Democrats a “na­tional dis­grace.”

Now Repub­li­cans have not only an ex­panded Se­nate ma­jor­ity but also a pro-life ma­jor­ity. Re­ports in­di­cated that Trump was close to nom­i­nat­ing Judge Amy Coney Bar­rett, a de­vout Catholic and mother of seven, to re­place re­tir­ing Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy. Bar­rett be­came a folk hero among re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives af­ter Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, grilled her over her Catholic faith dur­ing her con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings as a judge on the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 7th Cir­cuit last year.

Bar­rett was con­firmed for the cir­cuit court. But when it came to the Supreme Court, Trump cal­cu­lated that with a ra­zor thin-GOP ma­jor­ity he needed what was sup­posed to be a safer pick and went with Ka­vanaugh in­stead. Now Trump no longer has to worry about los­ing a few GOP votes next time around.

At ev­ery stage of re­cent Supreme Court fights, Democrats have mis­cal­cu­lated. Their mind­less de­ci­sion to fil­i­buster Neil Gor­such paved the way for Se­nate Repub­li­cans to get rid of the fil­i­buster for Supreme Court nom­i­nees. And if Bar­rett ever makes it onto the Supreme Court, Democrats can thank their defam­a­tory treat­ment of Ka­vanaugh.

The les­son for Democrats should be clear: Char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion does not pay.

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