Kavanaugh vote shows polls matter more than parties
The vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court was 50–48, almost entirely along party lines. The exceptions were West Virginia Democrat Manchin, who voted to confirm, and Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was opposed but voted present out of courtesy to Daines of Montana, who would have voted to confirm but was not present.
But does “along party lines” mean that Senators went long with what their party leaders demanded of them?
That seems unlikely. It appears to me that the Senate vote, while perhaps not the will of the people of the United States as a whole, did reflect the will of the people in each state. Senators voted to please their constituents.
If you look at Senate party membership in each state, you’ll only see only 14 states where there is a partisan split. Sen. Sanders of Vermont is still listed as Independent, but he caucuses with Democrats and Vermont’s other Senator is Democrat. so let’s make it 13.
Of the one-party states, 19 are Republican and 18 (with Vermont) are Democrat. If both Senators of a state are of the same party, you can reasonably expect that the majority in that states have political values most closely in line with that party.
And it’s pretty clear that Democrats, overall, either believe sexaul assault allegations against Kavanaugh, or otherwise oppose him. Republicans, overall, either don’t believe the allegations, or otherwise support him. It’s not surprising, then, that all the Senators in Red States and Blue States voted along party lines. But not because of the party; they were actually representing the majority will of their constituents.
Of the split states, five have Senators who are both up for re-election, and have served less than two full terms in the Senate. That is, who are not fully-established incumbents with power and seniority, and for whom the Kavanaugh vote might weigh heaviest on voters’ minds. Manchin is one of them.
According to Tracking Trump, Manchin is also in a state with a very high approval rating — 62% for Donald Trump in September 2018 — and Kavanaugh is Trump’s man for the Court. A vote for Kavanaugh was to play it safe for the re-election despite crossing party lines; he didn’t want to alienate voters who like him and like Trump.
Contrast that with Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Trump’s approval/disapproval numbers were only 50/46 in September. Donnelly’s race is a dead heat, and if he crossed lines and voted for Kavanaugh, Democratic voters would have been more likely to feel betrayed and not vote for him. He voted No.
Missouri’s Democrat McCaskill is in a similar situation: Trump’s numbers are just 51/46 and she’s in a dead heat. She voted No.
In Maine, Trump’s approval was just 42%. Sen. King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, voted No.
Trump’s also doing poorly in Nevada, 44/52, but incumbent Republican Heller wasn’t about to vote No on Kavanaugh when his race is also a toss-up. Like Donnelly and McCaskill, he didn’t want to alienate the people who got him the job in the first place..
In Wisconsin, Trump again is doing poorly: 40/56. A no-lose No vote for Democrat Baldwin, whose job appears safe.
And then there’s Democrat Heitkamp of North Dakota. Trump is 52/44 there, and she is behind in the polls by as much as 12 points. She may well have just voted her conscience as her fate is sealed anyway.
The Kavanaugh vote goes to show that it’s not the money, not the lobbyists, not even the parties that matter most in politics, but the voters. Manchin crossed party lines because he needs Republican and Independent votes as a Democrat in a Red State; in states where Trump is less popular, incumbents in close races voted on Kavanaugh in ways to encourage their base to come out and vote.
Partisanship isn’t always partisanship even when the result looks like it. In the end, politicians value voters more than their parties.