Americans are having a good laugh over the Brett Kavanaugh circus as this wildcard explodes into midterm election calculations

New York: Loud and hearty laughter - it’s the most visible reaction the Brett Kavanaugh chaos has ignited among ordinary Americans after US president Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick was accused of sexual assault - an incident from 36 years ago when he was 17 - by his high school acquaintance at the time, Christine Blasey Ford.  Ford is a research psychologist and biostatistician who teaches at Stanford University and Palo Alto University.

If this is dirty politics alone and nothing else, the message is clear for the Republicans - the Resistance will do whatever it takes to wrest control of the US House if not the Senate in the midterm elections scheduled for 6 November. The assault allegation has shaken up the battle over Kavanaugh's confirmation and injected an unexpected bombshell into the midterm race.

Not just us, even God is laughing at Brett Kavanaugh, screams a Politico headline.

 Americans are having a good laugh over the Brett Kavanaugh circus as this wildcard explodes into midterm election calculations

File photo of US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh. Reuters

“It’s not an election anymore if there’s no groping involved! It’s ridiculous!”, says Richard, 60, a retired engineer and white voter from New Jersey, as folks around him break into wide grins.

“Yeah, what a circus! Who could have imagined a drunken moment from 36 years ago coming back to haunt this guy. Wow!”, says Hope, a young nanny, as the cool Fall air grows thicker with gender politics.

“Serves them right!”, she continues.

Like how?

“Like, nobody in his right mind would take an accusation from 36 years ago as something that can make or break a Supreme Court nomination but the reason it’s become that way is because of the obvious hypocrisy all these guys exude”, she explains.

It’s the same stream of thought from the Politico essay: “So here was Kavanaugh—who spent his early 30s as a Ken Starr warrior pursuing Bill Clinton for the political and legal implications of his most intimate moral failings—now in his early 50s facing a political crisis over disturbingly vivid, passionately contested, decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh’s own possible moral failings.”

The Kavanaugh story will only widen the cultural chasm
Recent polling already has the Republicans on the ropes among younger college educated women; the Kavanaugh story will only widen the cultural chasm. “The Republican college-educated woman is done...They’re gone. They were going anyway at some point in time. Trump triggers them”, Trump’s exiled chief strategist Steve Bannon said long before Kavanaugh landed anywhere on the scene.

Does the Kavanaugh factor matter in the midterm elections?
But how much of all this is going to matter to the midterm elections which decides control of Congress? That depends on how many general election voters actually turn up for a midterm. The general trend is of midterm declines in voting and the fact that all of this data can only exist in the past, so we don’t know what triggers may change the pattern in less than 50 days from now.

Brown University researcher Brian Knight explains the peaks and valleys in presidential and midterm voting patterns and also why the sitting president’s party almost always loses seats at the midterms: One is a “presidential penalty” where midterm voters unhappy with the president can penalise him/her and ensure that the ruling party doesn’t control all of Congress. The second reason for incumbent loss is shift in ideology between the general election and the midterms but the stronger impact comes from what Knight calls "presidential penalty."

Democrats have a mountain to climb, anyway
With 42 days to go for the midterm elections, the data are sobering: In the 2016 presidential election, 19 percent of the electorate was millennial voters, while only 13 percent of that group voted in the 2014 midterms. Similar trends present among black and Hispanic voters. In 2014, married women, who made up 30 percent of the total electorate, voted 54 percent to 44 percent for Republicans. In 2016, however, the same cohort supported Hillary Clinton by two percentage points over Donald Trump. The presidential party has lost seats in all but three - 1934, 1998, and 2002 - of the 29 midterms held since 1900.

The congressional arithmetic of 2018 looks like this: Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to reach 218 seats for a majority in the House. In the Senate, Republicans hold a slim 51 to 49 majority. Democrats require a two-seat gain for majority control but this seemingly small change means Democrats will have to defend all the seats they now hold (26) while Republicans need to win just nine. Assuming the Democrats do make the finish line, they'll have to win 80 per cent (28 of 35) of this year’s Senate elections.

You still need 60 Senate votes to pass major legislation
If the allegations against Kavanaugh do indeed spill over to women’s view of Trump, it only furthers his problems with them at a time when women are already leaning towards Democrats, according to most poll of polls. It accentuates certain tendencies but this is hardly new. For the Democrats, is the Kavanaugh issue a better stick than the Russia probe to beat Trump with? Quite likely a resounding yes.

What does this mean for non-politicos and the common folk on the other side of the election? You still need 60 Senate votes to pass major legislation in the U.S. That’s a tall order even if Democrats win the Senate.

Updated Date: Sep 20, 2018 02:19:28 IST