Dear Big Daddy,
I’m jittery. I’m spooked. I feel I’m watching a slow-motion train wreck. You’re the political guy, so what’s your take on all this?
–Nervous in Napa
With Sacramento hunkered down for Jerry Brown’s final bill signing, the political mind drifts to Washington where it is always the Season of the Witch.
The politics of the time casts its pall across all three branches, with partisan control over the levers of government hanging in the balance. The Executive remains mired in the web of an independent counsel investigation, while the Legislative must decide the future of the highest court in the land for the generation to come.
Perhaps the most important development in the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh came midweek, delivered courtesy of the good folks at the Reuters–Ipsos–University of Virginia Center for Politics poll. Less than seven weeks before Election Day, Progresive supernova Beto O’Rourke inched ahead of Democrat Ted Cruz in Texas.
With that poll, it appears the Senate is really in play, and that may be bad news for Judge Brett.
With a very real chance of retaking the Upper House in November, Democrats now have additional incentive to try to run out the clock. And really, who would blame them? Republicans refused to confirm an Obama-appointed justice they admitted was qualified, Merrick Garland — citing the proximity of a presidential election that was still more than half a year away.
Obama had 10 months left in the White House, but the Republicans claimed, with a straight face, that presidents in the final year of their term somehow lose their constitutional authority to fill high court vacancies. I must have missed that clause in the Constitution…
So it seems a preponderance of political karma (at the very least) that Democrats are now hoping to push Kavanaugh’s confirmation past November, or kill it altogether, amid the explosive claims by Christine Blasey Ford about an alleged assault involving Kavanaugh at a high school party years ago. Allegations from others also are popping up.
And really, shouldn’t we have seen this coming? Not to trivialize any of the very serious allegations against Kavanaugh, but I’m just not sure we’re ready.
Yes, we approved alleged harassers to the high court, but are we really ready for a Supreme Court Justice named Brett? Ruth, Samuel, David – these are names that go back to the Old Book and evoke ancient wisdom. Even Clarence has a Southern regalness about it.
Brett is the guy who gets the canoe in the water for you at your family vacation, or melts into the barstool at the local watering hole. He can take you bass fishing or prep your taxes, but writing legal precedents that span the generations? That music is written by men and women whose names command.
Now where were we? Ah yes…
The developments in Washington reinforce the old political axiom: There’s no statute of limitations on pain, or revenge. Stuff has the darndest way of coming back to bite you on the rear just as you’re marching off in the other direction.
So while Blasey Ford is pushed to the spotlight, Democrats just may have found a way to avenge the ghost of Justice Merrick Garland.
But there is political risk on all sides.
Republicans run the risk of appearing insensitive to women voters on the heels of an election where, shall we just say that things aren’t looking good. Democrats, meanwhile, run the risk of handing Republicans an issue for those same elections. Republicans would love nothing more than to make 2018 about anything other than an unpopular president, or even an unpopular Congress. Maybe – just maybe – those voters will come home if the fate of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance.
Democrats should be careful what they wish for. Remember, Pat Brown thought he hit the jackpot when Ronald Reagan bested moderate George Christopher. Pat never saw the train that pushed him right out of office.