3) There is no clear evidence that voting for Kavanaugh will help in November
One reason vulnerable Democrats have voted for some of President Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees is simple: They don’t want to be labeled obstructionists in states where the president remains somewhat popular. (In a way, some of those votes — like the ones to confirm torture-friendly CIA Director Gina Haspel — are less defensible than giving a nod to Kavanaugh, since voters are very unlikely to keep in mind relatively under-the-radar confirmation fights when they’re casting their ballots.)
Kavanaugh’s case is different for two reasons. The prospect of a transformed Supreme Court make this inherently a much higher-profile vote than anything to come down the pike in recent memory, and its proximity to the midterm elections will automatically make it a campaign-trail talking point for conservatives.
But the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer writes that “if the past is prologue, what looks like the politically safest course now may turn out to be just the opposite later.” She raises the example of Clarence Thomas, whose ultra-contentious 1991 confirmation hearing taught Democrats some important and counterintuitive lessons. Centrist Democrats figured that voting for Thomas would insulate them from Republican attacks and ease their paths to re-election the next year.