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Murc’s Law Is A Harsh Mistress


The inevitable “the Democrats are to blame for Kavanaugh getting confirmed because they didn’t use the One Magic Trick they could have used to make 49 more than 51” takes are here, and they are terrible:

Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by a string of women. The evidence of his excessive drinking, his temper, his elitism and snobbery, and his sheer personal repulsiveness grows by the day. He also displayed most of these tendencies on television, in front of the entire world, in a hearing in which he demonstrably lied, repeatedly. And, oh yes, he is an extremist, obviously partisan person who is about to pull the Supreme Court far to the right, possibly for decades to come. What I’m saying is, there’s a lot to work with here if you want to make a strong case against him.

Indeed! Since I’m not a conservative Republican, I found this case completely convincing! I am not, alas, the median vote of the Senate.

Instead, Democrats put all their chips on an investigation by the FBI—an inherently evil organization which they have no control over. They could have gone right after Kavanaugh during his hearing. They could have questioned him, over and over again, about his drinking. They could have questioned him, over and over again, about the many allegations against him, or the many dubious characters swirling around him. They could have forcefully campaigned against him in public. But they decided to spend what felt like an eternity asking him why he didn’t want the FBI to investigate his case.

First of all, the idea that Democrats “put all their chips” on the FBI investigation and didn’t mention the other reasons to vote against Kavanaugh is howlingly wrong. But more to the point, how can you possibly think that asking different questions at a Potekmin hearing would change the vote? Right, when Jeff Flake finds out that Kavanaugh shares Flake’s extremely right-wing views and was nominated by his party for that very reason he’ll vote against him for sure! This whole thing is a mean parody of bad “only the Democrat Party has agency” takes, right?

It has been widely reported that the White House deliberately narrowed the scope of the FBI’s investigation, presumably to benefit Kavanaugh. (The White House has said that the Senate set the terms of the probe.) Democrats made appropriately stern noises about how bad all of this was once the FBI’s investigation was shown to them, but it raised the very obvious question: Shouldn’t they have known this is how things might go before they blew all of their political capital on getting the FBI involved?

1)Uh, Democrats knew this perfectly well. 2)The phrase “political capital” is pure meaningless Mark Halperin bullshit, and hence very handy to arguments like this. What does it mean? What “capital” did they have against Flake and Collins?

Regular people might not have been aware that the FBI couldn’t just go wherever it wanted during this investigation; I sure wasn’t.

Um, so you’re writing about politics, for money, and didn’t know that an investigation that is formally limited in scope and was universally described as such would be limited in scope? OK. Anyway, plenty of Dems pointed out that it was a sham!

Wavering Republicans like Susan Collins might have been persuaded to vote against Kavanaugh if it felt too politically perilous to back him. There are courageous activists hounding them every day. They’re under real pressure. The energy around stopping Kavanaugh is tremendous. But Democrats did their best to snuff out that energy, and handed Republicans the perfect excuse to back Kavanaugh. Democratic senator after Democratic senator made clear that their make-or-break issue was an FBI probe. Then Republicans called their bluff. Once the FBI came back and said, “nothing to see here,” there was nothing to stop Kavanaugh.

The idea that Collins was “wavering” is based on nothing, but as I’ve said before one odd thing about our political discourse is that would-be tough-minded leftier-than-thou types ultimately have more faith in the willingness of Republican party-line hacks to do the right thing than David Broder himself. Anyway, without the FBI investigation Kavanaugh would have been confirmed last Sunday.

And now, the punchline:

We should expect nothing less from Democrats. They do this over and over and over again. They are terrified of real politics, of having to step out from behind the comforting fog of procedure to actually face people, to try and convince them directly. Their belief in the power of the technocracy—in the ability of Official, Dispassionate People to really Step Up And Solve This Thing—is so deeply entrenched, so pathologically wound around their psyches, that it blinds them to the reality of how power in this country works.

The fact that the highlighted sentence appears in a piece premised on the idea that the Democrats could have gotten Jeff Flake to vote against Kavanaugh by asking different questions at a sham hearing is fucking hilarious. “Dumb technocratic neoliberal Dems have no idea how power in this country works. Now read my post about how Chris Coons could have stopped Kavanaugh with a BLISTERING tweet about Jeff Flake.” Yeah sure! Also omitted entirely from this piece: Heidi Heitkamp, who voted against Kavanaugh although she’s up for re-election in a state Donald Trump carried by 35 points. This kind of Tinkerbell armchair quarterbacking really is worthless.

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