As America nears the end of the chaotic Brett Kavanaugh saga, one must wonder how exactly these tumultuous events will conclude. Will we be seeing a new supreme court justice or a massive victory for Chuck Schumer and the Senate Dems? Will there be any impact on the upcoming midterm elections this November? What will be the greater historical ramifications?
First, the votes: Kavanaugh’s vote will be brought to the senate floor in the coming weeks and yet many Senators’ votes are still in question, mainly Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).
While other senators such as Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Joe Donnely (D-IN) were potential swings votes, they have both solidified their votes along party lines. For now, all eyes are on Flake, Collins, Murkowski, Manchin, and Heitkamp.
Jeff Flake is a wildcard and has played both sides over the course of this past week. On Friday morning (9/28), Flake announced that he will vote Kavanaugh through the committee before basing his vote on the ground of a one-week delay and an additional FBI background check into Kavanagh’s rape allegations.
Assuming that, like the previous background checks the FBI has run on Kavanaugh during his professional career, this particular background check does not uncover any new information or evidence of attempted rape or sexual misconduct, Flake will be expected to vote yes.
The unique concern with Flake is a potential legacy-moment similar to that of the late Sen. McCain. On July 28, 2017, Sen. McCain cast the deciding vote against the repeal of Obamacare, crushing a major part of Donald Trump’s presidential platform. The late senator’s “Watership Down” moment is considered to be by many, a move made out of spite and revenge towards a political rival, however, this is only a claim and cannot be corroborated by hard evidence.
Much like Sen. McCain, Sen. Flake also has had a history of issues with Donald Trump. While a “nay” vote may be a betrayal of his voters it will not hurt him politically and may set up an independent 2020 presidential run by creating contrast in between himself and Donald Trump.
That being said it is still unlikely due to his commitment to his voters and his verbal agreement with Majority Leader McConnell.
Even before accusations of sexual assault, Collins was pegged by Democrats as a potential swing vote. Despite this, the liberal, pro-choice Republican noted Kavanaugh’s judicial record and respected his answers on abortion-related questions during the initial hearings.
After the allegations, Collins maintained neutrality while questioning the credibility of Ford’s allegations. Additionally, Collins has endorsed Sen. Flake’s FBI call for an FBI investigation and will most likely be pushed to vote “yay” following the conclusion of the week-long investigation, assuming no additional information is uncovered.
Already, many leftist news outlets have begun lamenting on Sen. Collins’ potential “yay” vote with Vox likening for criticisms of Dr. Ford to a “right-wing conspiracy” and Vanity Fair’s T.A. Frank penning an entire article on why he believes Collins will “bite the bullet ” and vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Lastly, there has been some talk that Collins might be swayed towards a “nay” vote by potential election ramifications due to the center-left nature of Maine.
This is a ridiculous claim for two reasons.
Firstly, Sen. Collins will not be up for reelection until 2020, where I assume many new political issues will have come about and this vote will be overshadowed.
Secondly, Collins has held her Senate seat since 1997 and has seen her margins of victor widen at a constant rate from 5.3% in 1996 to 23% in 2014. The last thing Sen. Collins is worried about is an election.
Sen. Murkowski is in a very similar predicament as Sen. Collins. Like Collins, Murkowski was an early swing-vote target for Democrats due to her liberal, pro-choice leanings. However, much like Collins, Murkowski met with Kavanaugh and was satisfied with his initial hearing.
Following the breaking of the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, Murkowski has remained neutral, undecided, and quiet. In the few, brief interviews she has done since the allegations broke, Murkowski has played both sides while casting some doubt on the credibility of the allegations.
Following Friday’s judiciary hearing, Murkowski became the first senator to endorse Sen. Flake’s call for a week-long FBI investigation. Assuming the investigation does not uncover any new information, Murkowski will be expected to vote “yay.” While she should be a more reliable “yay” vote than Flake when it comes to the floor vote, she is not quite as reliable as Collins who has come harder against the credibility of the allegations.
Sen. Manchin is the epitome of an independent, pandering politician. Often seen flip-flopping on issues such as abortion, Manchin has tried, so far successfully, to stay afloat in a state that has seen a dramatic rise in conservatives and Republicans in the past 30 years.
With an election coming in November, Manchin planned on voting for Kavanaugh just as he voted for Gorsuch to prove his ability to break party lines to his West Virginia constituents. At that time, the West Virginia senator even likened Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to a slavemaster and himself as a defiant rebel.
However, when the allegations hit Kavanaugh, Manchin worked to maintain his neutrality. Following Kavanaugh’s hearing, however, Manchin met with Flake, Collins, and Murkowski, hinting they are planning on voting as a bloc. Additionally, Manchin joined the three Republicans in their call for an FBI investigation, further hinting at a potential voting bloc among the four senators.
With the three Republicans likely to vote “yay” following the investigation and a majority of West Virginians hoping for a Justice Kavanaugh, it may be tough for Manchin to choose party lines. This being said, it is very possible for Manchin to strike at this opportunity to fall into party lines with a more limited backlash due to the allegations.
The North Dakota Democrat is in a very, very difficult position. In many ways, Heitkamp is caught in between Sen. Joe Donnely and Sen. Joe Manchin, the two Democrats who joined her confirming Neil Gorsuch.
On one side, Donnely has come out strong against Kavanaugh, citing doubts on his personal and possibly criminal record. Alternatively, Manchin, who has a much more conservative record than the North Dakota senator, has been talking and negotiating with Republicans.
On top of this, Kevin Cramer, the Republican seeking to unseat Heikatamp in November, has been hitting Heikatamp hard on issues such as abortion and has already begun campaigning on her potential “nay” vote. Currently, Cramer is up by 1.6% in the RCP average and a “nay” vote against Kavanaugh in the conservative state could kill her reelection campaign.
Additionally, Heikatamp has also endorsed Flake’s initiative for the purpose of “increased information” but will not be expected to give a “yay” vote as much as the Republicans or even Manchin following the week-long additional background check, assuming no more information is found.
Torn between her constituents and her party, Heitkamp’s vote will come down to a flip of a coin.
The chart above is an estimation of how the votes will be cast and is not an exact science.
Notice that there is a slim 3% chance that the Senate will vote in a 50/50 split. This is because Jeff Flake would be needed to be the sole Republican to break party lines in order to create a 50/50 split. This would be odd as, in doing this, Flake would be wasting his dramatic vote to no avail as Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding 51st vote.
This is possible, however, as Flake would be able to make a statement without consequences. However, it is hard to imagine Flake voting “nay” without being joined by Murkowski or Collins.
Likewise, there is also a 3% chance that Kavanaugh will fall 49-51. This is because it would require two of the three swing Republicans to cross party lines without the third. This scenario is possible but unlikely. Much more likely is that the three swing Republicans will cross party lines, the vote will be along party lines, or the Republicans will be joined by Manchin, Heitkamp, or both.
Additionally, it is most likely that the vote passes 52-48 as Manchin will probably vote with the three swing Republicans and the FBI investigation will probably be fruitless. The prospect of Heikitamp joining them in a “yay” is slightly less likely but very possible.
The graph above shows the added probability of all the possibilities of an overall rejection vs. an overall confirmation from the first graph. There is about a 1 in 5 chance of Senate rejection and a 4 in 5 chance of Senate confirmation.
Historical ramifications, both short and long-term, seem to be a mixed bag. Echoes of these events will be heard in the future in many different ways, but the underlying theme throughout seems to be political polarization.
First, the Democrats may soon discover that they alienated many young voters and future voters. Young men especially are extremely wary that the actions will haunt them deep into their futures. Justifiably so, in a world of social media where many things are documented, for better or for worse, everybody should feel even more responsible for their actions.
That being said, this may have crossed a line in the sand. Democrats stood against Brett Kavanaugh, a family man with an unfathomably robust record, on the basis of accusations that were ridiculous at worst and doubtful at best. These accusations which have lacked important details such as date and location and yet Democrats saw it as fit or fit enough to destroy Brett Kavanaugh.
Nobody wants to see a rapist get away with his crime, but people recognize where the line is and understand that the Democrats have gone too far with not enough evidence.
This is very similar, as many have pointed out, to the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. Interestingly enough, Andrew Breitbart, one of the great conservative thinkers and activists of the 21st century so far, has credited these hearing as his “turning point” or red pill moment as we would say today.
From a personal standpoint, going to the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in suburban DC, a very liberal area, I have heard things about Kavanaugh that I would never think I would hear at my school. I have heard, to my surprise, classmates who attended the Women’s March and have considered themselves feminists and liberals turn around defend Kavanaugh against what they’ve described as “unfair sexism.” One class was so one-sided in favor of Kavanaugh the teacher even remarked: “this was not the path I thought this class was gonna go.”
Along with the alienation of young voters, there will be a shift within the feminist movement. The Clarence Thomas hearings, which again are very comparable to the Kavanaugh hearings, have been credited in kickstarting the third wave of the feminist movement.
With feminism now in its fourth wave, or, as many refer to it, the intersectional wave, perhaps feminism will enter into a fifth wave. This is not good news for feminists. Every wave since the first wave, or the sufferage wave, have been more controversial and more alienating. In fact, the most recent data, collected by the Huffington Post in 2013, shows only 18% of Americans identify as feminist despite 82% of Americans agreeing with the original goals of the first wave and second wave (not including abortion).
In summary, Kavanaugh will most likely be confirmed and the alienation of American voters, specifically young voters, from the political left will soon follow.