Brett Kavanaugh will make his first appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, on hand to defend his nomination to the Supreme Court. Democrats have spent the summer demonizing Kavanaugh over such republic-shattering issues as buying Nationals tickets with his credit card and then paying the bill, as well as declaring that he’d overturn a law that Congress ended almost two decades ago. Republicans have spent nearly as much effort in defending and promoting Kavanaugh as the quintessential candidate for a Supreme Court nomination in the ten weeks or so since Donald Trump announced his appointment.
As a result, the American public awaits these hearings so polarized that, er … a third of us still don’t know whether we care about it:
A plurality of voters support confirming Brett Kavanaugh on the eve of Senate hearings into his nomination to the Supreme Court, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Only 37 percent of voters say the Senate should vote to confirm Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s choice to replace former Justice Anthony Kennedy. But even fewer — roughly three-in-10, or 29 percent — say the Senate shouldn’t vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Another third, 34 percent, are undecided.
Among Republican voters, two-thirds, 67 percent, support confirming Kavanaugh, compared to only 8 percent who think the Senate shouldn’t confirm him. A majority of Democratic voters, 53 percent, say they Senate shouldn’t confirm Kavanaugh, while 15 percent say it should.
Independents tilt slightly toward confirming Kavanaugh, 32 percent to 23 percent, with 45 percent expressing no opinion.
Support may break down on a partisan basis, but apathy seems pretty universal. Those who have no opinion on Kavanaugh’s confirmation include a quarter of Republicans, a third of Democrats, and almost half of all those who aren’t affiliated with either. For two parties who hoped to rally their bases around Kavanaugh, the summer looks like an almost complete waste.
On the other hand, perhaps this bodes well for future Supreme Court appointments. In a world where the federal judiciary played its proper role as a neutral arbiter on the law and the constitution, apathy over each individual appointment to any of its levels would be an entirely rational response. Courts would then refrain from creating policies from the bench in either ideological direction and would force Congress and the executive to deal with those issues. We haven’t yet arrived to that world, but Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch do take us closer to it.
Kavanaugh plans to offer an olive branch in his opening statement while emphasizing the neutrality that a federal jurist should provide. When describing himself as a “pro-law judge,” Kavanaugh will offer a tribute to a colleague who never got this far in the process:
In his opening statement, Kavanaugh will offer praise to his Appeals Court colleague Merrick Garland, calling him a "superb chief judge." Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016 by Pres Obama, but GOP Senate leaders blocked hearings and a vote.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 4, 2018
Will that make any difference? Of course not. Democrats have largely thrown in the towel on Kavanaugh in the sense of being able to stop his confirmation, but they still have a plan to get him to self-destruct on … health care?
The long-shot path to killing Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination runs through the heart of the American health care system — and right into the November midterm elections.
Senate Democrats prepping for this week’s marathon confirmation hearings are zeroing in on the health care views of the man who could pull the nation’s high court to the right for a generation — and determine the fate of abortion rights, the social safety net and Obamacare itself, possibly within months.
Their goal: to box Kavanaugh into committing to preserve those health care pillars. Or, failing that, to get the 53-year-old appellate court justice to validate Democrats’ fear he’d vote to wipe them out — a reveal they hope would prompt a wave of public outcry and the additional two Senate votes needed to sink President Donald Trump’s nominee.
Prediction: Kavanaugh will commit to deciding each case on the merits and explain that he can’t take positions on cases that could come in front of the court. This is not a serious plan to stop his confirmation; it’s a plan to use Kavanaugh to rally voters in the midterms. If the poll from Morning Consult and Politico is accurate, however, only half of Democrats care about stopping him. As a rally point for a non-presidential election cycle, Kavanaugh’s about as exciting as FCC spectrum policy. And in a rational world, that’s precisely how it should be.
We’ll have more later as the fireworks begin in the confirmation hearing, of course. The outcome here is not in doubt, though, especially after Doug Ducey appoints a temporary replacement for the late Sen. John McCain.