This move isn’t that difficult, actually, but it’s extremely rare because you’re guaranteed to end up landing face-first on the pavement. Only a complete political doofus would attempt it.
Congrats to Amy McGrath for having the guts, if not the brains, to think she could pull it off.
Remember that McGrath isn’t any ol’ Senate candidate. She’s a top Democratic recruit. She blew the roof off last fall in fundraising for her House race against Andy Barr and she blew the roof off again this week after she announced her campaign against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, pulling in $2.5 million in 24 hours. There is, or was, every indication that she would be the Beto of the 2020 cycle, a Dem running a longshot campaign in a red state who was lavished with donations from liberals nationwide because they hate her Republican opponent just that much.
And here she is on day two of campaign swan-diving onto the asphalt.
Last summer, in the thick of her House race, she was asked whether she’d vote yes or no on new SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She replied on Facebook:
I echo so many of the concerns that others have articulated over the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
He has shown himself to be against women’s reproductive rights, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and will be among the most partisan people ever considered for the Court. Apparently, he will fall to the right of Gorsuch and Alito on ideology, and just to the left of the arch conservative Thomas.
Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed and we are starkly reminded, again, that elections have consequences, and this consequence will be with us for an entire generation.
The word “no” doesn’t appear there but in substance it’s a “no,” especially the last line. Which was a defensible position politically for even a red-state Democrat to take: McGrath was forced to choose whether to keep her lefty base happy or to risk alienating her core support by pandering to righties, who were probably going to vote for her opponent anyway. She chose to stick with her base. She lost narrowly.
She was asked yesterday, a year later, whether she’s still a “no” in hindsight. Nope, it turns out:
CJ: Did you think Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation was credible?
McGrath: Yeah, I think it’s credible. I think this is — I think many Republicans thought it was credible. And —
CJ: That wasn’t disqualifying then?
McGrath: Well, I mean I think again, I think it’s credible but given the amount of time that lapsed in between and from a judicial standpoint, I don’t think it would really disqualify him.
CJ: So you would have voted for him to be on the Supreme Court?
McGrath: You know, I think that with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him.
Ford’s allegation of attempted rape was credible — but it was a long time ago, so hey, confirm him. Is there any other person in America who holds that position? You can support Kavanaugh because you think Ford lied or that she misidentified her attacker; you can oppose Kavanaugh because you think he really did try to rape her and/or because he’s “extreme” ideologically or whatever. But how many people even on the right were of the view that he should be confirmed because Ford was credible but a lot of time had passed since he did it?
Or is McGrath saying that a lot of time had passed between the time of the incident and the time Ford came forward and therefore, while she seems credible, we can’t trust her recollection too much? That’d be more defensible — but it’s not not not what her lefty fans want to hear and that should have been patently obvious to McGrath before she said this. You can’t be Beto 2.0 siding with the right on the hottest culture-war flashpoint of the past year. McGrath seemed to understand that 12 months ago when she opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation *even before* Ford came forward. Now she doesn’t.
Did she think the left would cut her more slack to pander to the right just because they want to beat McConnell at all costs? Considering how much slack they cut Beto during his Senate race before turning on him viciously once he ran for president, that seems … not as crazy as it did in first blush.
Regardless, though, she miscalculated. She and her advisors must have gotten an earful from progressives after news broke last night that she was suddenly pro-Kavanaugh because she was on Twitter within hours, attempting the rare double flip-flop. From anti to pro to anti again:
Follow the replies to her tweets to see how well that explanation’s being received. “[I’m] going to bunt this slow pitch with my face,” said Ken White, summarizing McGrath’s inept handling of a softball question. The problem with the double flip-flop, of course, is that it’s a move guaranteed to alienate everyone. The righties to whom she’s pandering will find her obvious calculation and her reversal under pressure pitiful; the lefties whom she tentatively and temporarily abandoned will find her ideological commitment suspect going forward. Only a total amateur wouldn’t have seen the inevitability of the outcome. But that’s what she is, a total amateur. A great pilot and a heroic veteran! But a bad politician, who couldn’t avoid making that clear on day two of her campaign.
Will it hurt her, though? Warren Henry notes wisely at the Federalist today that for the left this election, like the Cruz/O’Rourke election, is less about actually trying to win and more about elections as protests:
Absent strong parties, the internet has shifted greater financial power to an activist class currently more obsessed with performative outrage than winning. And outrage culture is itself partly the product of a confluence of technology with the decline of institutions beyond Congress and the major political parties. People feel less connected to organized religions, civic organizations, or local government.
The effect of the internet, like radio and television before it, has been to further nationalize politics. But the internet, unlike these prior technologies, is corrosive to the idea of a common culture outside national politics. The Founders created an extended republic with the idea of countering faction; the internet puts the idea of faction on steroids.
In this environment, politics have become more symbolic, more religious.
It doesn’t matter (much) what McGrath says or does. The left will invest in her almost as a sort of religious donation, to broadcast its hatred for one of the most powerful and effective Republicans in the country. It’s basically tithing. Which makes it a bit more understandable why McGrath may have thought initially that they’d let her get away with a reversal on Kavanaugh. In the end, though, it turned out that that was a bit more serious of a heresy than she had realized.
A few days ago Nate Silver blew up the conventional wisdom by tweeting that he thought McGrath stood a real chance against McConnell, no worse than 25 percent. I thought that might be true if and only if Trump turns up in Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book of “clients.” We’ll see.