The political implications from Thursday’s hearings are still unclear. The early conventional wisdom is that the GOP base is more energized to vote in the midterms because they see Kavanaugh being unjustly smeared without much corroborating evidence, while many women are as motivated as ever to vote Democratic after hearing Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling testimony. Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, a red-state Democrat facing a tough re-election in 2018, decided to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination after the hearing. It’s a sign that he’s betting public opinion is turning against the judge.
The longer-term takeaway is that after 2018, there will no longer be an anti-Trump rump of the Republican party. Jeff Flake will be out of the Senate, along with his Trump-bashing colleague Bob Corker. A sizable share of the remaining Republican pragmatists in the House will have either retired or lost reelection. Voters will be faced with a binary choice heading into 2020: Join the party of Trump or be part of the #Resistance.
Kavanaugh, as a past political hand, surely understood that dynamic.