It’s not too often that conservatives have the luxury of dissecting the anatomy of a political victory. That’s because Republicans seldom fight for anything meaningful that would offer us durable victories. This case is different.
The case of Kavanaugh shouldn’t ever have been a point of contention with the outcome uncertain, given that Republicans control the White House and the Senate. Confirming a very “mainstream” judge, by the standards of the liberal legal profession, should not have been a big deal. Nonetheless, given the fact that Democrats threw everything they could muster at the nominee, including the most sensitive identity politics, we are all relieved that Republicans finally held the line on something.
However, given how rare these opportunities are, Republicans would be dumb not to press on with their advantage the same way Stonewall Jackson wanted to attack Washington the day of the Confederate victory at Manassas. If we don’t learn the lessons of the victory and follow up with more, the Left will continue to beat us on every other issue. To that end, here are 6 lessons Republicans can learn and harness for a strategy to go on offense:
1) There’s no such thing as lukewarm hell: The die is cast. No matter how conciliatory Republicans are on an issue, Democrats will seek to cut their hearts out. They could elect Susan Collins as president, and after all her overtures to Democrats, there will come one issue at which they clash and Democrats will assail her as if she were Louie Gohmert and Jim Jordan. The reality is that Republicans nominated someone who is unlikely to shift long-standing liberal precedent and someone who was always regarded as Karl Rove in a robe. Yet they treated him the same way they would treat someone with the paper trail of a judicial culture warrior. In the future, there is absolutely no reason to hold back from nominating 100 percenters who will actually do everything Democrats accuse them of doing in court rulings.
2) It takes a village to succeed: Ultimately, Kavanaugh was his own best defender and deftly made his own case under fire. But the only reason he succeeded when so many other Republicans were thrown under the bus in the face of a full-scale Democrat/media culture war is because everyone, with the exception of a few RINOs, fully backed him. There is no doubt in my mind that had this been someone from outside the D.C. circles with a long record of calling Obergefell an abomination, Republicans would have caved one by one, and the weakness itself would have made the nominee look guiltier of the accusations, even if the evidence was just as thin. Kavanaugh is an establishment golden boy and had George W. Bush and Condi Rice making calls to RINOs on his behalf.
This is what grassroots conservatives are always lacking when they come under fire. Republicans throw them under the bus because they fear the media, but in reality, they should only fear the voters if they retreat on their nominee. The grassroots always rally when establishment types are under fire, but that favor is never returned when the shoe is on the other foot. In fact, establishment types usually join the pile-on accusing our guy of being a racist, bigot, sexist, etc. Nobody can weather this storm on their own. It takes a village, one that conservatives usually don’t have.
3) Why not do this more often? If Republicans truly understand that Democrats are motivated solely by the quest for power, to the point that they will destroy someone like this, don’t they understand this is their motivation on health care, spending, immigration, and crime? I was struck by hearing a sense of moral clarity from Republicans on the Senate floor, categorically rejecting the Democrat premise on this issue. It was jolting because we never hear that from them on any other issue. Tune into C-SPAN on any given day and you will hear Republican diffidence in response to Democrat certitude; you will hear Republicans agreeing to the foundational premise of Democrats on “coverage” as the most important issue on health care and the needs of illegal alien “family unity” as the priority issue over protecting Americans from illegal gangs and drugs. Just look at how Democrats stick to their beliefs: For example, Heidi Heitkamp voting against the wishes of a super-majority of her state when she is down double digits in the polls. Why can’t Republicans speak with one voice to voters on issues they agree with them on, such as not embracing MS-13 and Hamas? Imagine if they would speak with one voice on every media outlet to uphold their party’s platform the same way they are committed to confirming judges?
4) Yes, you can actually motivate your base by doing the right thing: Despite their betrayals on every other issue and the fact that almost every good policy has come from the administration and not from Congress, this one issue has brought the pulse of the GOP electorate back, even to vote for spineless congressional Republicans. The same IBD/TIPP tracking poll that had Democrats up 11 in the generic ballot poll last month now has them up only 2 points. Just look at the upward spike in Trump’s approval right around the time the personal attacks on Kavanaugh began:
Trump's favorable numbers have risen significantly since the Dems launched their unsubstantiated attacks on Brett Kavanaugh. Look at the inflection point in polling starting on Sep. 18.
— Rob Eno (@Robeno) October 4, 2018
Imagine what would happen if Republicans actually took a similar intrepid, united, and categorical stance speaking to the truth and facts on the other important issues voters care about. Imagine where the base would be if they actually fulfilled their promises on health care and immigration. And going back to Lesson 1, Democrats will act as if you are spawning a revolution no matter how much you capitulate, so you as may as well implement your revolution and jazz up your base. Have your cake and eat it, too.
5) Swing voters hate violence and insecurity: What was true in 1968 about the silent majority hating riots is true now. The violence fomented by the Left in pursuit of its agenda is turning off voters. A few months ago, Republicans ran a Willie Horton-style ad highlighting Democrat support for anarchy. They need to re-up this in every race and couple it with the Democrat agenda on Hamas, Hezbollah, MS-13, and drug cartels to tie together terrorism, immigration, and the drug crisis – all hot-button issues with the voters. A safety and security agenda would go a long way toward turning the tide of an election in an era where “values” and “feelings” matter a lot more than even robust economic growth.
6) Embrace Democrats delegitimizing judicial supremacy: Some on the Left will now fear the coming of an aggressive conservative majority on the high court that will do to them when they have done to conservatives for 60 years. As such, watch for them to marshal the legal profession to delegitimize the power of the Supreme Court through further use of lower courts to achieve their ends. Conservatives should embrace this opportunity to get rid of all judicial supremacy both at the lower courts and the Supreme Court. In the long run, this will work better for us anyway, and it is the right thing to do, so if Democrats fear a powerful court for their purposes, why not shake hands and keep political issues in the legislature across the board?
Many conservatives are wondering what the media will move on to this week. But the lesson of the Kavanaugh saga is that we need not wait in a fetal position and merely react to the media’s defining of the political landscape. Why not define our own landscape and demand that Republicans not waste away the entire October on the campaign trail? Why not come back into session and slam Democrats on issue after issue? It would be a shame to relegate the Kavanaugh unity to the rearview mirror.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.