Conservatism after Kavanaugh

For those inclined to see Kavanaugh’s confirmation as the final and complete triumph of President Trump, it’s worth calling attention to a few incongruous details. First of all, this drama was unusual by current standards, in that it actually didn’t revolve around Trump. The president was only a minor supporting actor last week, even after he tried to grab the spotlight by sounding off in typically crude fashion. Perhaps conservatism is stronger when it isn’t mesmerized by The Donald?

Next, notice that the dynamic players in this drama were not Trumpian populists. Kavanaugh may owe his warmest thanks to Jeff Flake and Susan Collins, two of the most hated Republican senators of the Trumpian era. Flake, as Trump’s most implacable opponent in the Senate, is now so reviled on the right that he’s retiring from politics. Nevertheless, his demand for a limited-time-frame FBI investigation turned out to be quite prudent. It added a measure of legitimacy to Kavanaugh’s conformation, which Collins then augmented with her floor speech last Friday. It seems there can be benefits to having a few moderates in your party.

It’s been a long time since the right united around a serious and substantive political agenda.