Conservatism after Kavanaugh

The die is cast. Brett Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court justice, and the nation is just four weeks away from a very consequential midterm election.

While many liberals are clearly demoralized and disgusted by Kavanaugh’s ascension, they are also energized for November, eagerly awaiting a long-anticipated blue wave. Meanwhile, conservatives are enjoying their own transformative moment surrounding Kavanaugh. Over the last few weeks, the right almost seemed to be hosting a family reunion, setting aside long-standing grievances to rally around the embattled Supreme Court nominee. It was an extraordinary thing to witness, given the intense bitterness of these past few years. Who would have believed that the anodyne Kavanaugh (originally touted as an uninspiring but safe Supreme Court pick) would be the man to bring the team back together?

Now that their man is confirmed, the right faces an important question: Can it maintain the momentum of these past few weeks? Or will the Kavanaugh hearings be more like a divorced-family graduation photo: a brief moment of manufactured unity, followed by a resumption of familiar squabbles?

The answer really depends on what conservatives manage to learn from this experience. We’ve just gotten a glimpse of how effective the right can be when it pursues substantive goals with a prudent and focused strategy. Imagine what might happen if conservatives made a habit of that, instead of returning continually to the poisoned well of rage-driven populism.

To be sure, the Kavanaugh hearings provoked plenty of partisan rage. By telling a story with lots of pathos and little external corroboration, Christine Blasey Ford put the nation in an awkward rabbit-and-duck situation. Some saw a courageous woman speaking truth to a corrupt and powerful man. Others saw a respected jurist being consumed by a politically motivated smear campaign.

Regardless of which image first struck your cerebral cortex, the unfolding details likely served to confirm it. If you were inclined to see Kavanaugh as an entitled bully, his emotional and combative testimony did nothing to dispel that image. On the other hand, if the whole proceeding looked to you like a manipulative political ploy, Kavanaugh’s emotion may have stirred considerable sympathy. Many conservatives agreed that Ford’s allegations, if true, would be disqualifying. But almost any of us would find it excruciating to be grilled on high-school yearbook banter in front of the entire nation. When liberals declared that Kavanaugh’s demeanor at the hearings was itself disqualifying, conservatives balked. To them, this was like telling a man that he had to win a pie-eating contest to save his career, then complaining that his table manners were too dreadful to be tolerated.

Grievance politics have become business as usual in America. This time, though, there was a difference. The right wasn’t just looking to score more points in a never-ending game of “how low can you go.” They were working to confirm a Supreme Court justice. It truly mattered. In conservative eyes, that political objective was paired with a significant moral principle. It just seemed wrong that Kavanaugh, once accused, …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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