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The Political Consequences of Justice Kavanaugh's Confirmation - November 2018

posted Nov 8, 2018, 7:00 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review   [ updated Nov 8, 2018, 7:10 PM ]

By Cameron Smith '20

    It has been a little over a month since the beginning of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, and the fiasco is finally over. The 50-48 vote in favor of his confirmation on the Senate floor on Saturday, October 6th, brought him into the Supreme Court’s fold. This confirmation process has further accentuated the sharp divide between the political Right and the Left, given that the sexual assault allegations levied upon Judge Brett Kavanaugh were the main focus of the process: not from a sense of moral right and wrong, but from a political standpoint. Whether the allegation was true or false, Democrats, and particularly Senator Dianne Feinstein, clearly used the allegation of sexual assault made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as a political ploy. Their intent was to delay the floor vote on confirming Kavanaugh or to destroy his nomination before even making it there. At the same time, Senate Republicans claimed that the Democrats were pushing false claims against Kavanaugh. They stated that the Democrats, rather, were willing to take advantage of Dr. Ford in order to obtain a political advantage. Senate Republicans also attempted to push Kavanaugh’s confirmation to a vote before an official FBI investigation could take place into the sexual assault allegations, but were only stopped by Senator Jeff Flake, a pivotal vote in the confirmation. Flake stated that he was uneasy about voting for Kavanaugh before an FBI investigation could better ascertain whether the accusations were justified. Senator Flake’s move was a last-ditch effort to achieve some sort of unity between the members of both parties, but unfortunately, it failed; the ensuing FBI investigation became a major source of contention between the two sides, particularly in regards to its time restriction and scale. Regardless, the investigation seemingly found nothing that would potentially disqualify Kavanaugh from being placed on the Supreme Court. He was confirmed in the Senate almost completely on party lines. Only one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, went against the rest of his party and voted in favor of Kavanaugh.

    While the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh certainly has a conservative impact on American politics as a whole in the coming decades, it is uncertain what effects his confirmation will have on the upcoming midterm elections – especially congressional elections – in November. While the house was certainly expected to flip to Democratic control, the confirmation of Kavanaugh actually raises more questions about the upcoming elections than answers. Could Kavanaugh’s confirmation, another promise Donald Trump made on the 2016 campaign trail, be enough to energize the Republican base to vote with hearts reaffirmed by his kept promises? Or could this be what the Democrats needed, riling up their voting base’s anger at a Republican Party which they perceive does whatever it takes to keep hold of political power? It’s difficult to tell, however, whether the defeat in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight will raise or lower enthusiasm for Democratic voters in this election cycle. According to a Gallup Poll taken on September 27th, both parties’ voters are expressing a the highest enthusiasm for voting since 1994, with Democrats at 61 percent enthusiasm and Republicans at 58 percent. The most important figure, however, may not even have anything to do with the Democrats. The latest Rasmussen Reports Presidential Tracking Poll has just been released, showing President Donald Trump at a 51-percent approval rating among likely voters a day before the confirmation vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Odds are, that number will rise among conservative voters even further now that the Supreme Court has a solidified conservative majority. With a majority of Republicans aligning themselves with the President, it’s quite likely that with Trump’s increased approval rating, Republicans across the board may receive a bit of a bump in votes in their respective races.

    At the same time, the Democrats have developed a tumultuous discord among their own party, with many Democrats adamantly opposed to appointing Nancy Pelosi, the current Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, as Speaker of the House.

    Many Democratic nominees are being judged by voters with regard to their stances on Nancy Pelosi, which may very well lead to some lost votes from Democratic voters in close races during the midterms. This focus, combined with the red-state/red-district Democrats who voted against Kavanaugh in the confirmation vote, will make these toss-up races more interesting, because it may give a slight edge to Republicans running against Democrats in those districts.

    However, the Republicans aren’t necessarily going to escape the Kavanaugh confirmation unscathed. Many voters on the Left will consider the confirmation of Kavanaugh as a violent push-through of an immoral man into the most important court in the land. This could ramp up the animosity that the Democrats already hold towards the Republicans, whipping them up into a frenzy that could cause some Republicans trouble in the polls in November. However, with President Trump’s approval rating as high as it is among those likely to vote, it may be difficult for the potential Democratic wave to take back as many seats in the house as they plan.

    In all, the most likely case is that the Republicans will still lose control of Congress, albeit by many fewer seats than most expect, and they will keep a hold over the Senate, which is less contested, in this election cycle. Although many are expecting the Democrats to make huge gains in this cycle, there are simply too many factors in favor of the Republicans to completely write them off as losing double-digit seats in the upcoming elections. While many still hate the President and his political party, enough of the American people still stand behind him and the promises he has kept to his supporters. They could feasibly carry a few more Republicans to wins than most voters might think. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, arguably the most important of President Trump’s promises, will certainly help Republicans to increase their approval ratings; these will, in turn, help with their election chances. Whichever way the elections in November go, the impact of Kavanaugh’s confirmation will certainly have a strong presence in politics for years to come.