Why Trump is smart to keep fighting on Kavanaugh

For Democrats, President Trump’s truculent speech at Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s White House swearing in was a gift they hope will keep giving until Nov. 6. They think his decision to relitigate the attacks on Kavanaugh, instead of letting the issue go and taking the win, will aid their efforts to turn out women and young voters who are outraged at Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Their assumption is that the backlash about Kavanaugh will ignite a blue wave that will win them back control of Congress. So the more Trump keeps talking about it, the better it’ll be for Democrats who seek to turn anger at the president into in a turnout engine for their voters. But like all assumptions about politics in the Trump era, this one may also prove faulty.

Democratic enthusiasm has been off the charts as Trump haters look to the midterms to finally get a chance to vent their spleen at the administration. Trump’s doubling down on Kavanaugh even after he had been accused of sexual assault epitomizes everything that liberals despise about him. But what they’re missing is that the brutal confirmation struggle had the same effect on Republicans as it did on Trump’s foes.

Conservatives of all stripes were outraged at the way Democrats weaponized uncorroborated charges against Kavanaugh that, with the help of their media allies, smeared the judge as a sexual predator and alcoholic perjurer who epitomized white male “privilege.”

While Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation was, despite the holes and gaps in her story, viewed as believable if impossible to prove, the subsequent charges promoted by The New Yorker and porn-star lawyer Michael Avenatti convinced Republicans that the left was merely playing gutter partisan politics in order to prevent another conservative from ascending to the court. And they loved the fact that Trump wouldn’t back down.

Now that Kavanaugh has been confirmed, any normal president would seek to heal the wounds the court battle had opened and pipe down about the controversy. But Trump is not in the business of healing wounds.

And Republicans fighting for their lives in the midterms should be grateful for that.

The only way to gin up Republican turnout this fall is to convince the party’s base that they’re under siege. That’s a trick that is virtually impossible for an incumbent president to pull off since they control the government and are getting their way on a host of issues. Even with Kavanaugh, his confirmation should also dampen the outrage of conservatives.

But if Trump is able to keep his party focused on the way the Democrats and the media slimed the judge, it’s not just because he believes revisiting the issue helps Republicans. It’s because the left also won’t stop talking about it.

The odd dynamic of politics in the Trump era is that while the president’s statements and actions fuel the rage of his opponents, the same is true about the way liberals infuriate Republican voters. Every over-the-top obnoxious stunt by the “resistance” on Capitol Hill, the streets or restaurants where conservatives are stalked, and every stacked panel of liberal talking heads on CNN and MSNBC trashing Trump and conservatives, convinces Republicans that they, their beliefs and their values are very much under attack.

Reminding Republican voters of that may well help drive them to the polls in numbers that could minimize the party’s losses. Even if they lose control of the House of Representatives, their resentment might well ensure an enhanced majority in the Senate next year, as riled-up red-state voters punish incumbent Democrats who voted against Kavanaugh.

That means that rather than only one side being energized, both the Republican and Democratic bases are angry and mobilized, making this more like a presidential election than a midterm.

Who benefits the most from this? The only thing we know for sure is that like everything else that has happened the last two years, all the old rules that governed American politics prior to 2016 no longer apply. That’s a thought that should give the resistance nightmares.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS.org and a contributor to National Review.

Twitter: @jonathans_tobin

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