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Brett Kavanaugh hearings are the start of something big

The midterm season kicks off Tuesday when the Senate begins hearings on Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanau...

Posted: Sep 4, 2018 1:14 AM
Updated: Sep 4, 2018 1:14 AM

The midterm season kicks off Tuesday when the Senate begins hearings on Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Although the hearings appear disconnected from the action on the campaign trail, they will become a pivotal moment for each party to highlight for voters what is at stake in November.

President Donald Trump's nomination of Kavanaugh brought many cheers from conservatives. Kavanaugh is one of the legal minds who comes from the movement that centers around the Federalist Society, which conservatives built in the 1980s in an effort to transform the courts. Faced with what they perceived to be the liberal dominance of law schools and justices, conservatives nurtured thick networks of intellectuals, justices, and lawyers who mentored talented conservative minds so that there would be deep bench from which presidents could make their appointments.

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Unlike Robert Bork, President Ronald Reagan's failed Supreme Court nominee in 1987, Kavanaugh is more polished and less polemical, which will make it much more difficult for Democrats to paint him as a right-wing zealot. Given Republican control of the Senate and the absence of a filibuster, the odds of Democrats sidetracking the nomination are virtually nil.

Although some on the right have grumbled that he was too Washington establishment for their taste, the National Review praised this "whip-smart legal conservative" while former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson praised him as a "man of character, decency, and intellectual depth."

A majority of Republican governors signed a letter endorsing him. Kavanaugh has even received praise from several liberals who have urged their party to move forward with the confirmation. Lisa Blatt, a self-described "liberal feminist lawyer," wrote in Politico that "Sometimes a superstar is just a superstar. That is the case with Judge Brett Kavanaugh ... The Senate should confirm him."

In the The New York Times, the distinguished Yale Law School professor Akhil Amar wrote that "it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh," who was once his student, and told readers that he "commands wide and deep respect among scholars, lawyers, and jurists."

Although without the filibuster most Democrats understand that they are fighting a losing battle to stop the nomination, they can use the hearings as a forum to remind voters exactly what is at stake in the midterm elections. There are few issues that have provided as clear-cut evidence of what the long-term implications are of united Republican government than the courts. Putting aside the Supreme Court, President Trump and the Senate Republicans have been remarkably effective at moving forward their picks in recent months, setting in motion a massive transformation of the judiciary.

At the Supreme Court level, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch was an early and massive victory for Republicans. This pick will shift the Court decisively to the right, with possibly more vacancies to come. "He has a very nice smile, but an inch below the surface, he is a hard-right warrior," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

As Democrats are seeking to bolster turnout in November, especially in the Senate races where the odds still favor the Republicans, the hearings will be an exceptional opportunity to lay out the kinds of policies that hang in the balance if Democrats don't regain control of Congress and Republicans keep moving forward with their appointments.

Several potential Democratic presidential candidates, including Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar, sit on the Judiciary Committee, and will have a chance to burnish their credentials with Democrats. By asking questions about executive power, abortion rights, affirmative action, money in politics, environmental regulation, the legitimacy of unions and more, they can create a roadmap for why voting Democratic in the Senate races is so vital if one cares about these issues.

Republicans understand that the hearings present a similar opportunity for them. Although they will have to be careful since they don't want to push Kavanaugh into making specific statements he would rather avoid and they don't want to further motivate Democrats into a bigger fight, they do want Republican voters to remember why they need to come out for their party even if they don't like Trump's style very much.

If there are concerns among Republicans about the long-term implications of the President for their party, the courts are one area that dispel those fears. In The New York Times, Thomas Kaplan reported that the administration was "leaving an ever-expanding imprint on the judiciary," as Republicans had undertaken a "determined effort to nominate and confirm a steady procession of young conservative jurists."

The recent confirmation of Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant to the appeals court made Trump the president with the highest number of circuit court appointments at this juncture in the presidency since the system was created in 1981.

If Republicans are seeking ways to energize their base for the brutal slog of the next few months this is it and they will now have a televised platform to remind their voters of this promise. Even without saying much, simply by handling the hearings well and controlling the Democratic attacks, the GOP will walk away happy that they are handing their supporters the most important item on their political wish list.

While it would be wonderful if Supreme Court confirmation hearings could be insulated from the political process, that will simply not happen in the near future. The reality is that the confirmation process has become deeply political and deeply partisan.

Successful nominees have learned how to survive through the polarization rather than pretend that it will go away. The Kavanaugh hearings are no different and, since they are taking place at the start of September, they will become the opening bell for a midterm election that will be as important to the country's future as any we have experienced in recent history.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
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