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What will Democrats do about Brett Kavanaugh?

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As soon as it became clear that Kavanaugh would be confirmed to the Supreme Court, Republicans began crowing. Yes, Kavanaugh would be confirmed by the smallest margin in recent history. Yes, his confirmation itself was delayed due to multiple accusations of sexual assault. But Republicans claimed two victories. The first was true: The Supreme Court has an undeniable conservative majority, one that may hold for a decade. The second, however, was counterintuitive: Despite the accusations, Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a major political victory.

“It’s been a great political gift for us. The tactics have energized our base,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “I want to thank the mob, because they’ve done the one thing we were having trouble doing, which was energizing our base.” McConnell may have a point. Polls have shown the enthusiasm gap between the two parties narrowing and it’s possible that the fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination may have activated conservatives who believed he was being mistreated. Over the last few days, Republicans from Donald Trump to Susan Collins have been making the case that Democrats not only overplayed their hand, but disqualified themselves politically.

Democrat senators appear divided about whether to continue to focus on Kavanaugh. Appearing on Meet the Press, Chris Coons—who played a crucial role in delaying Kavanaugh’s nomination—dodged the question when asked if Democrats would consider impeaching the justice. Appearing in Iowa, Cory Booker said that Democrats should keep the option on the table. Impeachment requires 67 votes in the Senate and is highly unlikely, but could fire up the party’s base—at the risk, of course, of further activating the Republican base. Failing to press the issue, though, could demoralize Democrats who feel that the party hasn’t done enough to resist Republican extremism.

Politico editor-in-chief John Harris wrote on Sunday about Democrats’ “fear that their party loses big power struggles because Republicans are simply tougher, meaner, more cynical and more ruthless than they are.”

“They are more ruthless,” Jennifer Palmieri, a former top aide to the Clintons and Barack Obama, told Harris. “And I don’t want to be like them.… The answer can’t be for Democrats to be just as cynical.” But Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, said, “Democrats keep playing by a set of rules and then [Republicans] change the rules; but now that’s changing.”