America is stuck with Brett Kavanaugh

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will not be impeached — at least not anytime soon.

He won’t be impeached for the same reason President Trump hasn’t been impeached. And Kavanaugh won’t be impeached for the same reason he was confirmed to his lifetime appointment as a justice in the first place: The Senate is run by Republicans, and when it comes to their own, there’s no sign that Senate Republicans care enough about evidence of crimes and bad behavior to risk putting any dent in their power.

A New York Times report this weekend revealed new evidence that Kavanaugh was sexually inappropriate with women while a young man — and additional evidence in support of the claims of his original accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. Even though most of the Democrats still running for president immediately called for Kavanaugh to be impeached following the report, the truth is that nothing is likely to happen. All Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has to do is, well, nothing. And he is a master at doing nothing.

But there is an election coming up in November 2020, and it’s not just control of the White House that hangs in the balance, but the Senate as well. The latest Kavanaugh news means several developments are likely.

First, the shift of women away from the Republican Party will accelerate. Trump’s personal misogyny has badly damaged the GOP’s brand among women. That damage might be easier to contain if Trump were the only senior official with a known or alleged history of treating women badly. Instead, the party fast-tracked Kavanaugh through the confirmation process without fully vetting the allegations against him. It’s difficult to ignore the feeling that the Republican Party is indifferent to the concerns of women.

Increasingly, women are reciprocating. While it’s true that there are reportedly a record number of GOP women planning to run for House and Senate next year, polls and focus groups conducted over the summer suggest that Trump’s advantage among white women — the one subset of women he won in 2016 — has diminished considerably. That endangers not just his own re-election candidacy, but the efforts of Republicans who will be sharing a ballot with him.

Second, the impeachment of Kavanaugh may become a big issue in Senate races. If Democrats win control of the Senate and retain their majority in the House, the path to impeaching the Supreme Court justice becomes much more straightforward. This might work to the advantage of Republicans in some red states, where Kavanaugh’s innocence is widely presumed and fiercely defended among conservatives, but the issue may put other seats up for grabs. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has found her own re-election efforts trickier since supporting Kavanaugh’s confirmation — it probably won’t help her if his guilt or innocence of old charges is a live issue throughout the 2020 campaign.

Finally, the issues surrounding Kavanaugh illustrate, once again, why control of the Senate is so very important. High-profile Democrats like Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke have decided, for different reasons, to stay out of Senate races in their home states. That is surely their right — and Abrams, in particular, is doing important work with her efforts to expand ballot access — but their decisions deprive the Democrats of talent that might help the party capture the upper chamber. If Democrats win the presidency but lose the Senate in 2020, their ability to advance even the smallest progressive measures — or confirm even slightly progressive judges to the Supreme Court — will be nil.

Unfortunately, Democrats still seem more interested in the presidency than the Senate. That makes it increasingly probable that America will be stuck with Kavanaugh in the highest court, no matter the truth or falsehood of the accusations against him.

Democrats, of course, have their own troubles dealing with accusations of sexual impropriety in their ranks. But it’s clear that, for Kavanaugh to finally get the vetting he should have received in the first place, Democrats will need to retake control in Washington, D.C. Unless or until that happens, talk of impeachment is premature and futile.

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