Left’s attacks on Kavanaugh worked, but not how they hoped

Thursday’s appearance by Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a watershed moment for contemporary American politics. But while many stories will, understandably, focus on the continuing escalation of political polarization and tribalism which the nationally televised hearing made painfully visible, there is another, perhaps even more important takeaway to consider. 

For Republicans, Sept. 27, 2018, should be remembered as the day when their party became, clearly and unapologetically, the Party of Donald Trump.

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Until then, the battle for control of the GOP — which began during the presidential primaries of 2016 — was ongoing. Although President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE has been the unquestioned public face of the party since entering the White House, numerous not-so-quiet rumors have circulated of potential challenges to his leadership. Republican politicians such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Flake asks Daily Show where he can get a blanket emblazoned with his 'meaningless tweets' MORE of Arizona and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end The Hill's Morning Report — Trump maintains his innocence amid mounting controversies Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force MORE of Tennessee, and others have been openly critical of the president, leaving the door open for a possible establishment run against Trump in 2020. While GOP elites seemed temporarily resigned to Trump, it has clearly remained a delicate truce.

At least, that was the case until Brett Kavanaugh. For establishment Republicans accustomed to enjoying their privileged positions in elite society, Kavanaugh was a wake-up call — a “red pill,” if you will. Judge Kavanaugh could not have been a more establishment pick. He had impeccable credentials, graduated from prestigious Yale Law School and worked in the George W. Bush White House before being confirmed to the powerful D.C. Court of Appeals. He was a Supreme Court candidate who undoubtedly would have been just as high on Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump’s own undocumented help highlights plight of many immigrants Trump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold MORE’s or Jeb Bush’s shortlist as Donald Trump’s. In short, he was a candidate Republicans expected would be completely uncontroversial.

But then came the onslaught. Democrats tried every tactic in the book to delay and obstruct Kavanaugh’s confirmation, finally dropping an uncorroborated sexual assault allegation into the process once it became clear Kavanaugh’s confirmation was otherwise inevitable.

The progressive-controlled media then took over, publicizing even flimsier allegations and salacious rumors that would make the National Enquirer blush, in order to further muddy the waters surrounding his nomination. Before Kavanaugh was even allowed to defend himself in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he already had been found guilty in the court of progressive elite opinion, serving as a proxy for every unprosecuted rape or sexual assault ever committed.

The rule of law, presumption of innocence — none of these things mattered to Democrats eager to claim their biggest scalp in the ongoing cultural war.

For those Republicans who are, above all, dedicated to respecting and preserving the sanctity of bedrock American institutions — such as the Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate and a free press — the past two weeks have opened their eyes to just how corrupted these institutions have become. They are now seeing, as millions of Trump voters did two years ago, that these institutions and so many others have been captured and completely hollowed out by the political left, so that they can be used to advance progressive desires and weaponized to bludgeon any person who gets in their way. If even Brett Kavanaugh could be subject to such potentially career-ending attacks, so could any establishment Republican, no matter his or her previous standing — and no matter his or her innocence.

Amid an unmistakably angry Kavanaugh’s refutation of these attacks, as well as Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOcasio-Cortez: By Lindsey Graham's 1999 standard for Clinton, Trump should be impeached Senate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump Former FBI official says Mueller won’t be ‘colored by politics’ in Russia probe MORE’s (R-S.C.) now-viral castigation of the shameful actions of his Democratic colleagues, establishment Republicans felt the same anger of those voters who, in order to send a message to the Washington elite, voted for Trump in 2016.

As I’ve written in the past, the Trump movement ought to be seen, first and foremost, as anti-progressive, a response to the rapid progressive takeover and corruption of American institutions. Every fight that Trump has taken on since the beginning of his candidacy — against the “fake news” media, corrupt elements in the FBI and Department of Justice, the NFL and the entertainment industry — can and should be seen through this lens. And while some conservatives have been hesitant to support the president’s tactics due to their respect for these institutions, the left’s character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh may have been the final straw.

This is what the left’s attacks have ultimately wrought: a unified conservative movement, a “woke” Republican elite, a fired-up GOP base and a president with more support than ever. And, ultimately, they may fail in their primary goal of stopping Kavanaugh by any means possible.

Frank Cannon is the president of American Principles Project, a Washington-based think tank that promotes libertarian and social conservative policies.