He's their guy. He's been groomed for decades for this. His support in Washington goes right to the top. He has Bush making calls for him. Bush owes him, for his work on the Starr investigation, the legal team during the Florida recount, and his role as White House counsel. He is one of the boys. He is supremely well protected. He will have operators out there swearing friends to omerta, digging dirt on possible enemies, threatening former colleagues. So much class power is riding on this.
His Trumpian bluster, evoking Clintonite conspiracy, warning of dire consequences if he was not waved through, was a smart tactical move: polarise against "the Left", rally the Republicans against the enemy, browbeat 'moderates' into acquiescence. But it was also an accurate reflection of his historical purpose. He is entering the Supreme Court in what has become an overt challenge to the sacred 'beyond politics' ideology of the judiciary. It's open politicisation.
This was to be their moment and, yes, of course, they're furious that a woman who wouldn't shut up might thwart them. If frat brothers rape 300 per cent more than others, that's just a privilege of the class. The behaviour of supposedly 'moderate' Republicans like Lindsey Graham on the Judicial Committee shows it. These cadaverous outriders of the apocalypse have been emoting about the "politics of personal destruction", as if this wasn't their greatest asset. They have been pleading for the humanity of the accused, while presiding over the most brutal carceral system in the entire world. "I'm gonna remember this," Graham told Democrats on the Committee. The sense of affront is palpable.
So what matters more? The Supreme Court or the mid-term elections? Don't underestimate the historical consciousness, the class consciousness, of Republican politicians. Very few of them are just opportunists, and most of them don't need to be there. The net worth of the average Congress person is forty times that of the average voter and, being tied to profits rather than wages, has increased as the net worth of voters has decreased. They are there to give expression to the broader and longer-term interests of their class, whether they are auxiliaries of capital or middle class enragés.
Winning elections matters, but the Supreme Court is the closest thing to an unelected dictatorship in American politics. It has final say on controversial matters of policy, thanks to the insidious doctrine of 'judicial supremacy'. That's why they've been grooming an army of people schooled in arcane, quasi-mystical doctrines of American law for decades.
Trump has openly stated his ambition that all his Court picks would come from the Federalist Society, a far right association founded at Yale Law School in 1982. His picks for the court of appeals and district courts, which decide many more cases than the Supreme Court, are all drawn from the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. This, moreover, in a way that openly mocks the professional ideology of neutrality. The American Bar Association used to vet selections; it no longer does. Several of those picked by Trump were rated by the Association, "not qualified". As I said, open politicisation.
One reason the Democrats have been so feeble is that they are not only reluctant to openly politicise it, but desperate to cling on to the myth of professional, above politics neutrality. They want to the defend the sacred aura, the authority, of the institutions. They ought to be questioning the authority of the Court, and how much power it has accumulated, but that's not within their ideological purview.
Remember the broad relief when Obama won after years of Bush-era manoeuvring in the court system? After dubious memos, struggles over Guantanamo, secret prisons, torture, "enhanced interrogation" and so on? Remember the Feinstein inquiry, which blew the lid on a lot of what had taken place? Remember what happened next? Guantanamo stayed open, and torture continued. All those ominous accretions of executive power, rather than being reversed, were expanded.
The Democrats want a powerful, violent state. But they want it to be legitimate, and fit for purpose as the organiser and enforcer of liberal capitalism. That's what is at stake when Senator Leahy complains about politicisation. It's also one of the reasons why the self-defence of the liberal establishment in the face of reaction, from the Breitbart assault on ACORN to the Tea Party to Trump has been so dreadful, so unavailing. They want, ridiculously, to reheat Cold War nationalism.
Now, there is to be a brief FBI investigation. They didn't want this. Kavanaugh resisted it. Trump wanted his nomination waved through. Because even if it's only for a week, that is a week in which nothing good can happen for Kavanaugh. And even if the FBI is now led by a conservative lawyer from the same Yale Law School as Kavanaugh, there is no telling what some idiot might say to an investigator.
The Democrats pleaded for a week, just for the FBI to do a basic background check, talk to witnesses. It was an exceedingly moderate demand, but would not have happened were it not for Jeff Flake's last-minute wobble, giving cover to a small number of GOP opportunists to break ranks. The fact that they have been forced into this wager shows that their confidence is fragile. But if they can ride it out, and keep Trump and everyone else on message, and if the FBI doesn't raise new information, then they will have neutralised the Democrats' opposition and made it safe for the opportunists to rejoin the fold.
If Kavanaugh's nomination is ultimately approved by the Senate, he nows goes in as an open, declared pugilist for a faction of reactionaries. It will not be enough, as if it ever was, to call for a nicer President to be elected and appoint nicer judges. The case for a radical reform of the Court and its outsized power will be clear.