What is most remarkable is not the combat itself but what it reveals about the intensity of the two sides’ disagreement. While it would be going too far to say that Kavanaugh is just as likely to rule to overturn Roe v. Wade as Barrett would be, there is very little in the former’s record to suggest that he is hostile to the pro-life cause. Indeed, he dissented last year in a case involving a woman in the custody of immigration authorities who sought an abortion. But he is better known for his willingness to overturn federal regulations, especially those involving environmental protections. On paper there need not be any essential tension between these two tendencies in the same man. But somehow both sides seem to think there is.
Likewise, donor-class sputtering about the potential difficulties of confirming Barrett seems absurd. Democrats will not miss the opportunity to throw a fit about Trump’s judicial appointment no matter who it is. In any case, it doesn’t matter. The Republicans need only 50 votes to confirm Kennedy’s successor, and they will have them even if Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who voted to confirm Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals last year, decides to perform an awkward about-face. As many as three red-state Democrats are likely to cave, and there is always Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaker vote. The only way to make sense of the cosmopolitan GOP’s opposition to Barrett is to assume that they think anyone so beloved of knuckle-dragging but, alas, electorally necessary pro-lifers must have half a heart for the poor, something that could cost them down the line.