Unfair smear of Kavanaugh cost Democrats the Senate
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.