Did Democrats learn a lesson from the 2018 Senate confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court? According to The Hill, at least a few of them did, the biggest of which was — don’t do character assassinations close to an election. In retrospect, some Senate Democrats admit to a Kavanaugh Effect on the 2018 midterms, held just weeks after the “fiasco” hearings, in which the GOP picked up seats in the middle of a blue wave in the House.
At least the red-state Senate Democrats have … those that are left, Alexander Bolton reports
Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), the only Democrat who voted to confirm Kavanaugh in 2018 and went on to win reelection that year in a state that Trump carried by 42 points in 2016, said he hopes the Senate avoids a Kavanaugh-type redux.
“I hope they do. I would hope all my colleagues … have a civil, have a really professional, decent, honorable, respectable hearing, that’s all. And get to the points,” he said.
Manchin called the bruising Kavanaugh confirmation fight, which erupted into controversy after allegations from a woman that the nominee sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school, a “fiasco.”
“That vote cost, I think, a few of our colleagues their jobs,” he said.
Those people, another unnamed member of the caucus noted, were Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill, and Heidi Heitkamp. Before the Kavanaugh hearings, all three incumbents looked like they stood a decent chance at re-election. All three got the boot instead, leading the unnamed senator to lament to Alexander Bolton, “I’m sick and tired of losing. … We’re not going to go down that road again. ”
Montana’s Jon Tester, who prevailed in his 2018 contest even after the Kavanaugh debacle, said his standing took a hit as well. He said Senate Democrats should learn another lesson from the botched attack on the Supreme Court nominee and the voter backlash that resulted — namely, don’t listen to Chuck Schumer and the progressive leadership of the caucus so much:
He thinks Senate Democrats need to work on sharing power so that not just a few voices dominate the debate.
“They do need to do a better job of distributing power, including Schumer,” he said, referring to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “And this is going to be an opportunity for them to do that because this is a very important thing.”
All of this sounds good, but does it mean that the whole caucus has learned its lesson? So far, the answer seems to be a qualified no. The progressive leadership and its allies are still attempting to delegitimize both Amy Coney Barrett and the process, so much so that even CNN’s Wolf Blitzer felt compelled to call shenanigans on Richard Blumenthal over the weekend:
After getting called out, Blumenthal admits confirming Judge Barrett doesn’t violate the Constitution.
BLUMENTHAL: It is illegitimate.
CNN: Where does it say that what Republicans are doing is illegitimate in the Constitution?
BLUMENTHAL: It may not violate the Constitution. pic.twitter.com/DwWIOJplLH
— Senate Republican Communications Center (@SRCC) September 27, 2020
“Illegal it may be not under the Constitution,” Blumenthal stated in what sounded like a bad Yoda impression. “[But] under the norms and traditions and unwritten rules of the Senate it is illegitimate. One of the unwritten rules is that people keep their word.”
Blumenthal went on to yada yada about how Republicans had allegedly broken their “promise” not to nominate someone to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year, but Blitzer didn’t let him slide.
“So what I hear you saying, Sen. Blumenthal,” Blitzer countered, is that “it may be inappropriate, it may be wrong – especially so close to an election – but you agree that there’s nothing illegal or totally illegitimate as to what they’re doing?”
“It may not violate the letter of the Constitution,” Blumenthal responded reluctantly. “It violates the spirit of the Constitution, which is to give the American people a say in this kind of hugely consequential decision.”
That’s idiotic. The Constitution explicitly gives the Senate the authority to “advise and consent” to presidential appointments (Article II Section 2), not “the people,” and that’s hardly an oversight. The Constitution uses the term “the people” nine times, so it hardly treats the populace as an oversight. The spirit of the Constitution is embodied in its limited governance and its framework of a representative republic rather than a populist democracy.
Manchin and Tester have wised up, and maybe one more unnamed Senate Democrat (Doug Jones, perhaps?). Don’t bet yet that the rest of them have figured out the minefield ahead. And even if they have, will their progressive-activist base allow them to give Barrett a fair hearing — or will they walk out just before the election?