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Henningsen: Making Political Hay

J. Scott Applewhite
Associated Press
Brett Kavanaugh is President Trump's nominee to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Nearly identical appeals come from both Left and Right. “Only your contribution NOW can stop Brett Kavanaugh from savaging your rights!” Or, “Only your contribution NOW can stop those who would stop Brett Kavanaugh from protecting your rights!” Note the reverse priority order of topics: our rights, Brett Kavanaugh, and, in pride of place for highest emphasis, our contributions - NOW.

These appeals arrive so frequently that I could probably heat my house this winter with the snail-mailed flyers alone – but it seems to me that the urgency has less to do with our rights or Brett Kavanaugh, and more – much more - with our contributions NOW.

Regardless of which side you’re on, here's a golden opportunity to watch the inhabitants of Washington’s so-called “swamp” at work, as political action groups use the Kavanaugh nomination to gather a tremendous amount of money, even though there’s little doubt about his ultimate confirmation. What we have here isn’t political action, but the illusion of political action, undertaken to demonstrate the continuing relevance of the organization asking for our support. There’s too much money, too much prestige, too many lobbying jobs at stake to admit the real truth.

Which is: that those objecting to Kavanaugh already know what’s going to happen and can’t prevent it. They don't have the votes to delay the process. Republicans have enough votes to ensure his appointment and will pick up one or two – perhaps more – extra votes from Democratic senators up for re-election in red states. Surely, it would be more honest to admit this and say “we need the funds to renew our efforts, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

On the pro-Kavanaugh side the same truth applies: the nomination is virtually guaranteed to go through, so additional funds will be used to continue the Republican winning streak.

But to political action groups this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to throw red meat at the base and increase partisan division even further by appealing to emotion rather than reason, while making no difference to the ultimate outcome - all the while fattening the coffers of lobbyists, consultants, and political action committees whose ultimate loyalty is to themselves and their own survival.

It’s not about us; or Brett Kavanaugh. It’s about them.

Vic Henningsen is a teacher and historian.
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