Progressives Need to Give It Up on Brett Kavanaugh

Brett Kavanaugh at the 2019 State of the Union Address a few months after having been confirmed.Doug Mills/Pool/CNP via ZUMA

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Roxanne Roberts updates us today on Brett Kavanaugh (nickel summary: doing fine but lots of people still don’t like him) and this gives me an opportunity to express an unpopular opinion.

But let’s start with Bill Clinton. In 1998 Republicans impeached him for perjury but failed to get more than a tiny handful of Democratic votes in the Senate. They were punished for this at the polls later in the year.

Why? Clinton did lie under oath, after all. Everyone agreed about that. But outside of the fever swamps, among ordinary people, it mattered a lot what he lied about. And these ordinary people figured that (a) it was about getting a little nookie on the side, (b) it had nothing to do with his performance of his office, and (c) come on, everyone gets a little on the side and everyone lies about it if they get caught. Get real.

Republicans were in such a lather over Clinton that they just couldn’t get this, and it’s the same mistake Democrats made with Kavanaugh. Did Kavanaugh lie under oath? Of course he did. But outside the lefty Twitter mob it mattered a lot what he lied about. Most people understood that Kavanaugh had (a) engaged in some crude sexual behavior and binge drinking 35 years ago as a teenager, (b) it had nothing to do with the performance of his office, and (c) come on, lots of people are a little wild as teenagers and they all lie about it if they get caught.

Now, I know the lefty rejoinder perfectly well. Crude sexual behavior??? It was assault! It was rape! He ruined Christine Blasey Ford’s life. And then the smarmy prick tried to pretend he was the victim.

In the precincts of modern left Twitter, this stuff is so obvious that it hardly bears saying. Outside those precincts, however, it sounds head-shakingly ridiculous. Among Republicans, even honest ones, the whole thing looked like a cynically calculated attempt to destroy a good man who was guilty of nothing more than a trivial bit of youthful horseplay three decades in the past and had had a sterling career ever since.

I guess this is a long way of saying that I hope progressives don’t try to use Kavanaugh as a way of rallying the Democratic base. Like it or not, it will backfire. If Kavanaugh becomes a campaign talking point, ordinary people will just shake their heads and committed Republicans will be far more fired up to vote than Democrats. They are massively pissed about the whole affair. As always in politics, know your audience.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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