Trump wins, counterattack begins
Barring another surprise in a month that’s been full of them, Brett Kavanaugh will soon take a seat on the nation’s highest court. It’s an epic, historic win for Donald Trump and Republicans, but they shouldn’t get complacent. The Democratic counterattack will shift into a higher gear (if that’s possible) in the final weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 6. The Dems lost the battle for the Supreme Court, but they could win a larger war in Congress, one that could haunt the rest of the Trump presidency — or virtually stop it cold.
Prior to the Kavanaugh drama, all the momentum was with the Democrats. They were playing offense, the GOP was stuck in defense. That usually has the same outcome in football or politics.
But the furor over Kavanaugh has strangely energized Republicans — even though they prevailed. They are furious that Kavanaugh was slimed for what he did as a youth — and what he was accused of doing.
Yet Democrats have been seething since Trump won the presidency, and they have been counting the days for a chance to strike back. Like in the midterms in 29 days. Their anger, and the usual bounce-back that favors the party out of power in midterms, had them poised to retake the House, and maybe the Senate.
They need to gain 24 seats to pry the Speaker’s gavel out of Paul Ryan’s hands. Should they get them as expected, their subpoena power will rock Trump’s world. They’ll quickly aim for his tax returns, and who knows what secrets lurk there?
Given what we know about Trump’s finances so far, and the occasionally shady people he hung around with in rough-and-tumble New York real estate (like his personal attorney, Michael “shell corporation” Cohen) there’s no good outcome there for Republicans. Either the news will be mildly bad (questionable tax dodges) or really bad (tax fraud and money laundering, possibly with a Russian twist).
Republicans know that too and would love to head it off at the pass by keeping control of the House. That seems undoable, and they might want to focus on holding the Senate. That chamber confirms Cabinet choices, like whoever will replace the-soon-to-be-fired Jeff Sessions for attorney general, with all the implications for the Mueller probe into Russian meddling and other shenanigans.
And if one of the two Supreme Court judges in their 80s steps down (Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Stephen Breyer) that issue skyrockets to the top of the national agenda. A Democratic Senate will not approve any Trump nominee, in payback for losing the Kavanaugh battle and not getting Merrick Garland on the court in Obama’s last year. A Republican Senate will move heaven and earth to seat another conservative justice and control the court for a generation. (First question for vetters: Can I see your high school yearbook?)
The next 29 days will be chaotic enough, and that’s if nothing else happens. If more dirt leaks out on Kavanaugh, or he’s vindicated on one of the charges facing him, look for a Blue or Red surge.
Everybody’s angry, and angry voters tend to vote. The pendulum could swing wildly for either party, because the Kavanaugh circus has jumbled everything.
Thomas Taschinger, TTaschinger@BeaumontEnterprise.com, is the editorial page editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. Follow him on Twitter at @PoliticalTom