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Dispatches from the Kavanaugh fight: Week 3, Momentum

Ilyse Hogue
Jul 23, 2018 · 5 min read
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Ignore the skeptics and keep on organizing. Last week was a game changer. Let’s review.

Just two weeks ago — if I am honest, it feels like two months ago — Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. At NARAL, we were poised to oppose any nomination based on Trump’s own litmus test that any justice would have to commit to ending Roe v. Wade, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women.

But Kavanaugh was a known quantity to us giving the fight less ambiguity and more energy. Brett Kavanaugh has made significant rulings that clearly demonstrate just how sure-fire a bet he is to fulfill Trump’s promise to undermine fundamental freedoms that most Americans support. Legal writer Dahlia Lithwick outlines how Kavanaugh has a much more extensive track record on Roe than any nominee in recent history. Given the popularity of this landmark case, that should be enough to cast a long shadow of doubt on his nomination.

Then last week, we got the first broad indication of how Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination is playing out with the American public. Short answer: not well.

Pew released the first polling about Kavanaugh after his introduction to the American people, and his approval ratings are low. Lower than doomed nominee Harriet Miers. This is a significant development.

For context, let’s examine the two-step big-picture strategy used by Republicans when they announce a Supreme Court nominee: a) do everything to make the nominee seem likable and normal and b) manufacture a story line that the confirmation is a done deal. This poll indicates that their attempts at inevitability failed.

Our efforts to inform voters about his record had impact as well as clarified the stakes. Americans aren’t fooled by Republicans’ thin attempt at a charm offensive that focuses more on Kavanaugh’s success at carpool duties than his constitutional responsibilities, and his basketball coaching over his ideology. In fact, that same poll showed that a majority of Americans — including a majority of Republicans — think that this guy should be required to answer specific questions about his views on abortion and other key issues, and can’t be allowed to duck and weave with non-answers like previous nominees have done.

So the first two weeks of Kavanaugh’s nomination did not turn out how Trump and Mitch McConnell wanted. And it’s because of the work we’ve all done together.

The last few weeks have reminded me of the first few weeks of Donald Trump and Republicans’ attempts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in Washington professed confidence they had the votes. Pundits went on TV over and over again to repeat that there was nothing Democrats and the grassroots could do to stop them. And yet, the ACA still stands.

As Kavanaugh’s rollout faltered, the People’s Defense coalition — a coalition of more than a dozen grassroots groups dedicated to fighting Kavanaugh’s nomination — was just getting started. In the first two weeks after the nomination, partners in the coalition:

  • Held 107 events around the country to ask Senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh, spanning from Indiana to Alaska, Maine to Missouri, and Colorado to West Virginia
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  • NARAL, Indivisible, and MoveOn powered 20,000 calls from constituents to Senate offices. One Senate office in Florida reported receiving 2,000 calls with all but 275 of them asking him to vote NO.
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  • NARAL and MoveOn members sent more than 150,000 messages directly to Senate offices asking them to vote NO.
  • NARAL launched ads in Maine, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas.

The massive organic energy in response to this nomination is building so fast that it seems to have a life of its own in unexpected and encouraging places. Someone — no one knows who — hung this “Save Roe, Stop Kavanaugh” banner outside the All Star game in DC last week where Kavanaugh was attending with his family and a national TV audience was tuned in.

Last week was also when we were reminded why Majority Leader McConnell didn’t want Kavanaugh in the first place, when, pre-nomination, he worried aloud that Kavanaugh had too extensive and revealing a record to slip him through the way Gorsuch did. In just one week, we saw:

So as we head into the third week of this fight together, let’s keep channeling the momentum we’ve built: progressives are activated and growing more so by the day, moderates are aghast at what they are learning about this radical nominee, and Republicans are reeling from a pick that seems to confirm voters’ worst fears about a Supreme Court that won’t stand up to an out of control administration. We beat the efforts to repeal the ACA and we can defeat Kavanaugh too.

Save the Date: August 26th Unite for Justice Day of Action.

In states all across the country, NARAL, MoveOn, and more than 25 other organizations (and counting) are building a National Day of Action “Unite for Justice” to oppose Kavanaugh.

There’s a long way to go between now and any confirmation vote, and more is sure to come out about Kavanaugh that will only increase the public’s concern and activism. Republicans cannot lose a single vote or they lose.

Going into this week, it seems Republicans are facing some stiff headwinds as more and more people start to tune in to the threat their nominee poses to our fundamental freedoms and democracy. I don’t think most people want to risk the next 40 years on this guy. We can win this one if we stay united. With me?

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