You Never Win By Losing

on September 4, 2018 in Washington, DC.
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hi... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 04: Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the vacancy on the court left by retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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September 17, 2018 12:55 p.m.

I’ve gotten a lot of fascinating responses to my comments and question below about the political fallout of the Kavanaugh accusations, many raising dimensions of the question I hadn’t considered. This from TPM Reader PM comes closest to capturing my take both in the particular and as a general theory of politics …

You never win by losing and you almost never lose by winning. Democrats should torpedo Kavanaugh if they can. Failure isn’t going to motivate Republican voters. If Kavanaugh goes down in flames, social conservatives will shrug their shoulders and tell themselves that the dreaded Republican establishment failed because it never really wanted that fifth vote. The confirmation drama, they will say, was all just failure theater, a replay of the comic opera effort to repeal Obamacare. Many if not most social conservatives will lose what little faith they have left in electoral politics and see little reason to go to the polls. Very few people are going to be fired up about preserving a Republican majority that consistently fails when it really counts.

Destroy the target you have in your sights. Worry about the next target when it’s in range.

Whether base conservatives are demoralized by a Kavanaugh defeat in just the way PM describes I have no way of knowing. But as a general matter victories energize and defeats demoralize. The particulars vary. The broad outlines seldom do.

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