Ka­vanaugh fight stirs up the right

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - Pol­i­tics USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – TENN.

The dust has more or less set­tled from the Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion bat­tle, but we will feel its ef­fects for some time to come. It will take an en­tire term of the Supreme Court to be­gin to as­sess the im­pact of Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh on the court it­self, but the po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences are more im­me­di­ate and tan­gi­ble.

The re­tire­ment of An­thony Kennedy, which set in mo­tion the events of the past two months, has been long an­tic­i­pated by both left and right. Be­cause of the cen­tral­ity of the Supreme Court to the po­lit­i­cal process, there was every ex­pec­ta­tion that the fight to fill his va­cancy would be a bat­tle for the ages. In that re­gard, it did not dis­ap­point.

Prior to Ka­vanaugh, Democrats were more en­thu­si­as­tic and more likely to vote in the midterms than Repub­li­cans by a sub­stan­tial mar­gin. This cre­ated what poll­sters call an “en­thu­si­asm gap.” But Democrats had al­ready achieved “peak en­ergy” for this elec­tion. The Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion did not sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease their anger, which is driven by hos­til­ity to Pres­i­dent Trump.

For Repub­li­cans, the con­fir­ma­tion fight en­er­gized the base and beyond. The histri­on­ics of the op­po­si­tion to Ka­vanagh uni­fied and mo­ti­vated Repub­li­cans as noth­ing else could do. It brought back into the Repub­li­can fold Trumpskep­tic vot­ers, whose en­thu­si­asm for the ad­min­is­tra­tion has never been strong. Re­mem­ber that for nearly 20 per­cent of the vot­ers in 2016, the fill­ing of Supreme Court va­can­cies was the prin­ci­pal rea­son they voted for Trump.

The con­fir­ma­tion bat­tle en­er­gized the base on both sides, but Repub­li­cans had more room for up­ward move­ment and so have in­creased their en­thu­si­asm rel­a­tive to the Democrats. This “Ka­vanaugh bounce” shows up in the cur­rent polling which has Repub­li­can se­nate can­di­date mov­ing ahead in their races, across the coun­try.

The Se­nate races are dif­fer­ent from the House races. The com­pet­i­tive Se­nate races are tak­ing place in Trumpfriendly states. The com­pet­i­tive House races are tak­ing place in Trump-skep­tic sub­ur­ban seats. There, the votes of Repub­li­can women will de­ter­mine the out­come.

Will they vote in sym­pa­thy with the #MeToo move­ment or will they pass judg­ment, as Judge Ka­vanaugh sug­gested in his open­ing state­ment, “as they would want their fa­thers, hus­bands and sons" judged?

In Ten­nessee, the Ka­vanaugh ef­fect is al­ready ap­par­ent. U.S. Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn, who was barely hold­ing her own against former Gov. Phil Bre­desen, has moved into a sub­stan­tial lead. The Fox News poll which showed Black­burn with two-point lead two weeks ago, now has her up by five points. The CBS News poll has her up by 8 and Siena Re­search has her up by 14.

As pre­dicted in this col­umn a month ago, Bre­desen cyn­i­cally waited un­til the votes for Ka­vanaugh were set and his po­si­tion did not mat­ter be­fore an­nounc­ing his sup­port for con­fir­ma­tion. Not un­til Sen. Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia and Sen. Su­san Collins of Maine made their po­si­tions clear, did Bre­desen dare to come out of hid­ing to an­nounce his sup­port of Ka­vanaugh.

This has an­gered some on the left. The mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans whose votes he needs are not that eas­ily fooled. His stand would have been coura­geous had it been taken in Septem­ber, but it is an ob­vi­ous ploy when an­nounced af­ter the out­come is known.

The ques­tion go­ing into the last few weeks be­fore the elec­tion is whether the anger gen­er­ated by the Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion fight will trans­late into votes. How long can we, as Amer­i­cans, stay mad at each other? My guess is that both sides can hold that anger at least un­til Nov. 6.

John Ry­der is a Mem­phis at­tor­ney, with Harris Shel­ton, who serves as Chair­man of the Repub­li­can Na­tional Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion. He pre­vi­ously served as Gen­eral Coun­sel to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. He can be reached at ry­deron­theriver@gmail.com.

John Ry­der Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

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