Kavanaugh lesson: Resist the 'resistance' or lose

It’s time to resist the “resistance.” Left unchecked, this political movement may just cement a Republican majority in Washington for the next 20 years. Rather than taking back the country from President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans move to block Yemen war-powers votes for rest of Congress Trump says he's considering 10 to 12 contenders for chief of staff Michael Flynn asks judge to spare him from jail time MORE, this well funded and coordinated effort is setting back the Democrats and disassembling a few of our government institutions at the same time.

Trump’s victory gave the left an opportunity to radicalize the Democratic Party. The idea was simple: Oppose everything with all we’ve got. Energize, protest, flip on the switches of identity politics, use the politics of personal destruction, enlist the presidential hopefuls, go to the courts, spur on special prosecutors, flood social media. For a while, this movement gave energy to a beaten lackluster party.

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But now its flaws are coming home to roost. Screaming at senators in elevators while complaining about judicial temperament doesn’t add up. Opposing every issue for every reason begins to look shrill and fake after a while. Stirring people up leads to unpredictable excesses. Treating half the country as pariahs only increases their anger.

Even normally level headed leaders like Senator Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, Democratic leaders go toe-to-toe at White House Overnight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Trump moves to ease Obama water rule | EPA document contradicts agency over water rule data| Manchin to be top Dem on Senate Energy panel Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee MORE (D-N.Y.) have been cowered into reading talking points each day that appear to come from the politburo of the resistance. Every day some action by the administration will bring death and destruction and will imperil the union. He complains of the “partisan screed” of Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe case for reauthorizing VAWA Kamala Harris to keep seat on Judiciary Committee Planned Parenthood president 'deeply concerned' about Kavanaugh presence on Supreme Court MORE while making one of his own. All of this crying wolf flies in the face of an economy that has surged, unemployment that has dropped to 3.7 percent, and significant improvements in the lives of minority households.

As we entered this nomination fight, Trump was floundering and things were running in favor of the Democrats. Filled with overconfidence, some Democratic senators pledged to oppose the Supreme Court nominee even before he or she was announced. After he was announced, potential 2020 candidates vied for nightly sound bites taking whacks at Kavanaugh, culminating in the laughable “Spartacus” moment of Senator Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerGillum to speak at gathering of top Dem donors: report Dem: 'Disheartening' that Republicans who 'stepped up' to defend Mueller are leaving McConnell agrees to vote on Trump-backed criminal justice bill MORE (D-N.J.). Demands went out for millions of documents.

Then we came to the leak of the Christine Blasey Ford letter, which Senator Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinPence casts tie-breaking vote for Trump appeals court judge Time fumbles another 'Person of the Year' by excluding Kavanaugh Bottom Line MORE (D-Calif.) had referred to activist lawyers months earlier instead of sending it to the Senate Judiciary Committee for investigation. Not a single Democrat had trouble with the lack of corroboration nor praised the very FBI report they had asked for. It became clear the Democrats had their own “get Kavanaugh” operation.

As this further devolved to unrestrained media reports of gang rapes, thrown ice cubes, and secret high school yearbook marks, even Republican moderates, the only potential votes to defeat Kavanaugh, became incensed. Senator Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOval Office clash ups chances of shutdown Republicans skeptical of Trump’s plan to have military build the wall Corker to introduce resolution holding Saudi crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi's death MORE (R-S.C.) called the Democratic actions a “sham.” Senator Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsLobbying World Senators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House MORE (R-Maine) called it “gutter level” political campaigning. Nearly 70 percent of the public called the hearings a “national disgrace.” These Republican moderates, each of whom have supported Democratic causes in the past, are indicative of the national weather vane and, at that moment, it flipped against the Democrats.

The resistance is in full boomerang mode now. But the fired up movement appears to have no “off” switch. Feinstein, in the election fight of her life, has, with her statement after the confirmation, decided to impugn the Supreme Court rather than appeal to national unity. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has said he would launch hearings if the Democrats take over, threatening an unprecedented investigation by the House of the advise and consent process of the Senate. Americans like investigations, but they vote for issues such as health care, jobs, and education.

If you think I’m exaggerating the potential downside of the resistance, recall the last time the left took over the Democratic Party. It was in the late 1960s after Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.) toppled President Johnson, with Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern serving as the next two presidential nominees for the party. The results were disastrous. From 1968 to 1992, with the exception of four years of Jimmy Carter, Democrats typically lost almost the entire electoral map. Even in 1988 they lost 40 of 50 states. They came back only when Governor Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonJared Kushner: The White House’s results-driven tactician California dreamin’ in the 2020 presidential race Mueller filings threaten Trump but fall short of case for impeachment MORE ran as a “different kind of Democrat” and brought the party back to the center.

Remember, only 27 percent of the country is liberal. Less than 10 percent can be classified as left. This is a moderate country that believes its politicians need to get things done. Polls show that eight in 10 voters want politicians who will work to find compromises. Had the opposition to Kavanaugh been civil and reasonable, it still might not have won. Yet, such principled opposition would have won over the hearts and minds of swing voters. Instead, the country is harshly divided, with many believing Kavanaugh is a rapist poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and others seeing him as an honest distinguished jurist slimed with uncorroborated lies. Women voters were already trending to the Democrats. Now the conservative base, which was divided and asleep, has been energized.

Democrats still have the edge in the midterms for the House, as 90 percent of the time America chooses divided government. Both President Obama and President Clinton faced first midterm wipeouts. But an upset is now possible if Democrats fail to turn away from the resistance and its extreme tactics. Americans want action on our most pressing problems. They are not going to vote for the party whose message is impeachments and investigations, especially during an economic resurgence.

Mark Penn is a managing partner of the Stagwell Group, a private equity firm specializing in marketing services companies, as well as chairman of the Harris Poll and author of “Microtrends Squared.” He served as pollster and adviser to President Clinton from 1995 to 2000, including during Clinton’s impeachment. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_Penn.