Losing: Not Always Bad Politically
Most commentary on the current “crisis” regarding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court takes it for granted that the Democrats really want to “win” this battle and deny Kavanaugh a seat on the court. I think, however, that that could be an assumption that is not warranted, just as it is unwarranted to think that our two political parties want to win each and every election.
There have been numerous elections where a political party does want to win an election or is content to lose. In 1912, William Howard Taft and the mainstream Republicans preferred to lose that presidential election to the Democrats and Woodrow Wilson rather than win it with Teddy Roosevelt as their candidate. In a more contemporary vein, I was interested to see that while Republicans in Massachusetts could not elect one Republican to the House of Representatives they could elect governors, e.g., Bill Weld. Maybe that is because to elect members to the House of Representatives, the mainstream Republicans would have to nominate Republicans who would undermine their power, whereas electing a governor does not constitute that kind of threat.
Moreover, other losses, e.g., the Vietnam War, have not harmed those who wanted to wage and win that war. In fact, since that defeat those who are in favor of militarizing our foreign policy are more popular than ever. And there is some evidence that those who waged that war suspected that this would be the result especially insofar as the US went “all in” in waging that war. Furthermore, we have been waging war in Afghanistan for at least 17 years – and so it cannot be said that we are “winning” that war – and yet the fact that we haven’t been able to win that war has done nothing to weaken those in favor of a militaristic foreign policy. If anything, those favoring such a foreign policy have been strengthened. And, of course, I need not point out that the “failure” on 9/11 has done nothing but strengthen the hands of those who advocate a full bodied militaristic foreign policy.
Why point out this phenomenon now? Well, because it is a bit naïve to assume that the Democrats would be unhappy with Kavanaugh being successful in his bid to become a Supreme Court Justice. The Democrats, having “fought the good fight,” as it were, can try to turn this “defeat” into a “victory” in the upcoming midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election. Moreover, they can do this without having to change any of their agenda or support people who would challenge the status quo, viz., the insurgents in the party.
So there are benefits that will accrue to the Democrats even if Kavanaugh is confirmed, most generally a strengthening of that party without requiring it to “change its stripes.” Hence, my prediction that Kavanaugh will be confirmed, and the Democrats will raise “holy hell,” even while grinning all “the way to the bank.”