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GOP, Dems both incited to win by recent events

October 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — Pay attention, Democrats. Watch what Republicans are doing. You’ll see what raw power looks like — and understand why winning in November is so vital for the nation’s future.

President Trump, aware that the country is passionately divided on many critical issues, could have nominated a moderate jurist to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had been the swing vote between the court’s conservative and liberal wings. Instead, Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, a darling of farright pressure groups that want to topple the remaining pillars of progressive jurisprudence, including Roe v. Wade.

The administration withheld reams of relevant documents from Kavanaugh’s service in the White House during the George W. Bush years. Democrats squawked. The Republicans who control the Senate just smiled.

Christine Blasey Ford, a respected Ph.D. psychologist with no known ulterior motive, tried to anonymously report that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school. When Ford’s name was made public, Senate Republicans summoned her to a kangaroo-court hearing. First, they had a hired-gun prosecutor to try and — unsuccessfully — poke holes in Ford’s story. Then, after Kavanaugh’s red-faced denial, they cheered him on rather than interrogate his version of events.

Forced to reluctantly reopen the FBI’s background investigation, Senate Republicans imposed an arbitrary one-week limit. Neither Ford nor Kavanaugh was interviewed. No attempt was made to contact more than 40 witnesses who might have confirmed or refuted the stories of misconduct told by Ford and two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick.

Trump, at a campaign-style rally, ridiculed Ford in a blamethe-victim rant that drew cruel laughter from a Mississippi crowd. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plowed ahead toward a vote to confirm Kavanaugh, 53, as a Supreme Court justice for life.

That’s what you can do if you have power — and what you cannot prevent if you are powerless.

Republican political operatives are gleeful that the Kavanaugh fight has riled up the party’s base with a month to go before the midterm election. Some believe the controversy has all but eliminated the possibility that Democrats could seize control of the Senate and even put in doubt whether the GOP will lose the House.

That’s nothing but hyperventilation at this point. I would advise Republicans to be careful what they wish for.

It was inevitable, in my view, that Republican voters’ enthusiasm for the November election would rise, if only because there was no way for it to go but up. Trump is brilliant at inciting his core supporters, and he was bound to find some issue to flog. Republicans have always taken judicial nominations more seriously than Democrats, and Kavanaugh’s defiance seems to have inspired even some GOP stalwarts who see Trump as a clownish interloper.

But if Democrats are not equally motivated by this outrageous power play, then they don’t deserve to win.

Ford was heard, then ignored. Her testimony before the Judiciary Committee was called “compelling” by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deemed “credible” or “believable” by almost everyone else. Yet she was not believed. Republican senators were much more concerned with the impact her allegations were having on Kavanaugh’s life rather than the impact the alleged assault has had on Ford’s.

Republicans were also untroubled by Kavanaugh’s shocking display of temperament, or lack thereof. He bizarrely cited “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” as a reason for Ford’s allegation, attacked Democratic senators in a nakedly partisan way and warned that “what goes around, comes around,” which sounded very much like a threat. Such a performance should be considered disqualifying. But Republicans are in the majority, and they have the power to ignore what the nation saw and heard.

Get mad about Kavanaugh, and then get even. What “comes around” must be a Democratic wave.

Eugene Robinson is a syndicated columnist. His email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

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