Brett Kavanaugh’s performance in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27 will go down in history as one of the worst public temper tantrums ever thrown by a Supreme Court nominee. And nobody should forget it – or Kavanaugh’s demonstrably terrible record on other issues — when they step into the voting booth in November to elect members of the U.S. Senate.
One of the most significant responsibilities of United States Senators is their role in confirming federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. For years, the political right wing has understood this key connection. Conservatives vote with the Supreme Court in mind, and their candidates point to the Court while on the campaign trail. Donald Trump did it; it’s pretty clear that it helped him win over skeptical conservatives.
Meanwhile, progressive voters traditionally have been less inclined to think of the courts when they cast their ballots. But even before Kavanaugh erupted in front of the Judiciary Committee on the 27th, polling showed that attitudes were changing. A Pew Research Center survey the day before the hearing showed that 81 percent of voters supporting Democratic candidates ranked the Supreme Court battle as very important to their vote.
By then, of course, voters had been exposed to much reporting about the downright awfulness of Kavanaugh’s record, and it’s hard to see how the additional information that has come out since would do anything other than amplify their concern. That could be the case for voters in November whether Kavanaugh ultimately is confirmed or not.
Think about it: if Kavanaugh isn’t confirmed, we’ve still experienced a truly teachable moment about the importance of a Supreme Court nomination. We will have come THIS CLOSE to losing health care coverage and reproductive rights that Kavanaugh opposes. We will have come THIS CLOSE to giving a lifetime Supreme Court seat to a person facing not just one, but several credible allegations of sexual assault. A person who repeatedly made misleading statements under oath. A person who acted unhinged at a public hearing, ranting and raving at U.S. Senators and spouting wild conspiracy theories about the Clintons — clear signs that he lacks the temperament required of a Supreme Court justice.
That ought to be enough to scare any voter into thinking carefully about who should have the power to nominate and confirm judges – and that means people we elect to the Senate, and ultimately the person in the White House.
And if Kavanaugh is confirmed, well…that ought to motivate voters even more. Because that would mean that none of the disqualifying issues in Kavanaugh’s record mattered to a majority of U.S. Senators, who voted to put him on the bench. We’d say time should be up for those folks.
The bottom line? We could be seeing a new generation of courts-oriented voters, much like those who made 1992 the Year of the Woman after the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. November 6 can’t come soon enough.