Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dems Should Tread Lightly With Kavanaugh


Now that it looks like we are finally going to get a hearing Thursday regarding Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's allegation of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, I have a few words of advice for Democrats on the Committee: tread lightly.

Let me repeat myself: Democrats should tread lightly here. Why, you ask? Because there's a real strong possibility that they could overplay their hand and give the Republicans the gift of a lifetime six weeks before the most critical midterm election in over a generation. Let me explain.

With the story in The New Yorker about a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has now come forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct against her, Republicans have closed ranks. They are proceeding full speed ahead on this confirmation. Yes, there will be a hearing Thursday, but the very next day there will be a Committee vote, followed by a full Senate vote. In other words, Ford's testimony is superfluous as far as they are concerned. They've already made up their minds. Like Lindsey Graham, they're not going to "ruin this guy's life based on an accusation." So much for hearing Ford out.

And then there's the latest bombshell from Michael Avenatti that on Wednesday he will reveal the identity of a third woman who was a victim of Kavanaugh. The manner in which Avenatti is turning what should be a serious matter into a freak show is deeply disturbing, but if the allegations are true, Mitch McConnell's pledge to "plow through" with the confirmation just became considerably more difficult.

Think about it: without asking Kavanaugh one single question, Democrats have been dealt a winning hand here. The optics for Republicans over this nomination could not be worse.  As I wrote in an earlier piece,
Do not be fooled by the bravado coming from Senate Republicans and the White House. They're sweating bullets over this confirmation. Mitch McConnell would rather have a tooth pulled without Novocaine than have this on his plate. His party wasn't all that popular with women voters before this story broke; the specter of seeing a repeat of the Anita Hill debacle would only drive those anemic poll numbers further south. Most Republicans are resigned to the House flipping; if they lose the Senate as well, you can kiss goodbye any future Supreme Court confirmations.
The polling on Kavanaugh is problematic for Republicans, as well. A majority of Americans do not approve of his nomination and a majority of them want the confirmation vote delayed until all the facts are known. There's an old saying in football that goes like this: when your opponent fumbles the ball, don't give it back to them.

Democrats have every right to probe Kavanaugh on his past; it is more than relevant. And they should NOT let him get away with the same kind of evasive, lame-ass answers to legitimate questions like he did the first time around. Kamala Harris clearly got under his skin; she will no doubt try to do so again. Good, that's her job.

But while most people, sadly, don't pay much attention to issues like abortion or even the limits of executive power, sexual assault is an issue that resonates with many people across the political spectrum. And even though women pay particular attention to how these issues are dealt with, not all women are progressive. For Democrats, the road to regaining their majority goes through the suburbs, hardly a bastion of liberalism.

As one who lives in one of the largest suburban areas of the country - Long Island - I can tell you that while a majority of these people may not be happy with the way Trump is conducting himself in office, that doesn't automatically mean they like Democrats or that they would. if push came to shove, pull the lever for them. If these voters get the impression that Democrats are simply grandstanding just to delay the appointment of a conservative justice till after the midterms, any hope they have of taking the House in November - much less the Senate - will go up in smoke.

I'm serious. There's a fine line between doing your job and being a dick. Republicans have given a text-book example of the latter over the last nine years, particularly so the last two. That's the biggest reason why the generic ballot polling shows them trailing Democrats by 8 points. It would be the height of political malpractice for Democrats to look the gift horse they've been given in the mouth.

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