Progressives Need to Give It Up on Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh at the 2019 State of the Union Address a few months after having been confirmed.Doug Mills/Pool/CNP via ZUMA

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Roxanne Roberts updates us today on Brett Kavanaugh (nickel summary: doing fine but lots of people still don’t like him) and this gives me an opportunity to express an unpopular opinion.

But let’s start with Bill Clinton. In 1998 Republicans impeached him for perjury but failed to get more than a tiny handful of Democratic votes in the Senate. They were punished for this at the polls later in the year.

Why? Clinton did lie under oath, after all. Everyone agreed about that. But outside of the fever swamps, among ordinary people, it mattered a lot what he lied about. And these ordinary people figured that (a) it was about getting a little nookie on the side, (b) it had nothing to do with his performance of his office, and (c) come on, everyone gets a little on the side and everyone lies about it if they get caught. Get real.

Republicans were in such a lather over Clinton that they just couldn’t get this, and it’s the same mistake Democrats made with Kavanaugh. Did Kavanaugh lie under oath? Of course he did. But outside the lefty Twitter mob it mattered a lot what he lied about. Most people understood that Kavanaugh had (a) engaged in some crude sexual behavior and binge drinking 35 years ago as a teenager, (b) it had nothing to do with the performance of his office, and (c) come on, lots of people are a little wild as teenagers and they all lie about it if they get caught.

Now, I know the lefty rejoinder perfectly well. Crude sexual behavior??? It was assault! It was rape! He ruined Christine Blasey Ford’s life. And then the smarmy prick tried to pretend he was the victim.

In the precincts of modern left Twitter, this stuff is so obvious that it hardly bears saying. Outside those precincts, however, it sounds head-shakingly ridiculous. Among Republicans, even honest ones, the whole thing looked like a cynically calculated attempt to destroy a good man who was guilty of nothing more than a trivial bit of youthful horseplay three decades in the past and had had a sterling career ever since.

I guess this is a long way of saying that I hope progressives don’t try to use Kavanaugh as a way of rallying the Democratic base. Like it or not, it will backfire. If Kavanaugh becomes a campaign talking point, ordinary people will just shake their heads and committed Republicans will be far more fired up to vote than Democrats. They are massively pissed about the whole affair. As always in politics, know your audience.

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This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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