From a purely political perspective: If his nomination is withdrawn, won't Trump just nominate another conservative judge (who would presumably be confirmed by the republican-controlled senate)?

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 5:34
  • 35
    Consider the converse: What do Republicans have to gain by continuing to argue for Kavanaugh instead of rejecting him and moving to the next option on the list?
    – Tin Wizard
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 17:47
  • Two questions asked, which question is the focus? Please clarify.
    – BobE
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 20:10
  • 5
    @Walt If Republicans backed down immediately to accusations like this, that tendency to back down could theoretically be gamed by the Democrats. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:00

12 Answers 12


If senators can draw out the nomination process long enough, they have a chance of having a Democratic majority in the Senate during the next confirmation. Then Trump would have to nominate somebody that Democrats are happy with.

  • 25
    That's if they allow one at all. Some Democrats have suggested no Trump nominees would be acceptible
    – Machavity
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 14:47
  • 11
    "Then Trump would have to nominate somebody that Democrats are happy with." - That's not entirely true. Just as we saw with Garland, the President can nominate the person they want, and Senate can just flounder on it. Then political games ensue, with everyone saying the other party isn't doing their job.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 17:36
  • 1
    @elliotsvensson It would be interesting to see Democrats attempt to stall a confirmation for over a 1+ years... the political flak to just confirm and move on with life would surely add up. It's entirely possible Republicans could ram through a conservative nominee this way.
    – SnakeDoc
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 17:45
  • 1
    @BobE, "have a chance" implies speculation, too, I guess. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 20:16
  • 2
    @SnakeDoc: But with a Senate majority (or even with a few sensible Republicans from "purple states"), stalling a confirmation isn't the Democrats' only option, They can simply vote to reject an unsatisfactory nominee.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 17:03

Expanding on Elliot's answer.

Even if rushed, there is a process to approving a President's nomination. Nominating and approving another person before the November election would be possible, but it would be tricky to do it that quickly.

Could Republicans really get Barrett or another nominee confirmed before then? And if not, could they confirm her in the so-called lame-duck session after the midterms but before the new Congress meets on Jan. 3.

The answers are “possibly” and “probably” — but the timing is getting dicier by the day.

(written on 9/25)

The Republicans right now just barely have a majority of the Senate. There's a Senate election in just 40 days. So there's a chance they could lose control of the Senate before anyone else could be nominated and voted on. If that were to happen, then the President would be forced to nominate someone who could get at least some Democratic support.

That being said, its not a great chance. Only about a third of Senate seats are up, and only about a third of those are held by Republicans. 538 currently gives the Democrats about 31.5% of taking control.

However, that's not too much longer odds than the Republicans faced in their gambit of refusing hearings for Merrick Garland, and they were lucky. Sometimes you beat the odds when you take these gambles, and if goodwill from the other side isn't a consideration (which its fair to say hasn't been a possibility during Mitch McConnell's entire chairmanship), there isn't much downside to not trying.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 8:23
  • 15
    Also, don't underestimate the importance of following through on a tit-for-tat strategy. The GOP will see perverse incentives to keep obstructing judicial nominations if it doesn't come back to bite them (or at least threaten to).
    – nomen
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 20:54
  • 2
    Even IF the Democrats take the Senate these coming midterms, they won’t actually be seated until January. Republicans could vote on and confirm a nominee in the interim, albeit not without some political blowback.
    – eggyal
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 7:03
  • 1
    I asked a question about this before and the only answer was that a lame duck Senate session can confirm just as well. So there is no November deadline. Even if Republicans do lose, they can confirm someone after the election (with no political price to pay at that point).
    – grovkin
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 9:27

Senators doing their job

the moral benefits of not having an accused sex offender on the Supreme Court.

That's not just a moral benefit, that's the senate's job. From senate.gov (emphasis is mine):

The Constitution grants unique powers to the Senate, allowing it to serve as the more deliberative legislative body and as a check on the executive and judicial branches by providing advice and consent on nominations and treaties.

"If he doesn't someone else will"

But from a purely political perspective: If his nomination is withdrawn, won't Trump just nominate another conservative judge (who would presumably be confirmed by the republican-controlled senate)?

Yes, he will probably nominate someone else. Then the same procedure starts again and the senate will have to its job ("to provide a check on the executive and judicial branches by providing advice and consent on nominations") again.

The argument that rejecting this nominee is pointless because there will be another who may be equally bad sound a lot like “if I don't, someone else will”. That argument is discussed on the Philosophy Stack Exchange site. In this case, that argument undermines the senate's responsibility.


This should be obvious, but in addition to the other reasons stated, even if the Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate in the mid-term elections, if Democrats prevent Brett Kavanaugh from being appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, then the seat will be filled by someone else nominated by President Trump instead.

Brett Kavanaugh is a very undesirable candidate for this life long post in terms of his history of judicial decision making, his background as a very partisan Republican operative, and his personal character. The personal character issues include:

  • multiple accusations of sexual assault,
  • a history of misogyny in how he chooses and treats his clerks,
  • provable instances of lying under oath,
  • problems with alcohol overuse, and
  • problems with personal financial management.
  • He has a history of being a bully and a jerk in his personal life and that could influence how he acts with a powerful lifetime appointment in subtle ways.

If Trump nominates a replacement candidate, that candidate would in all likelihood be better vetted and would be at least someone less obviously polarizing. Instead of a judge in the model of Justice Thomas, like Kavanaugh, Trump might nominate a judge more like Justice Roberts, for example. And, while a Justice Roberts clone would still be a profound disappointment to Democrats, a Justice like that would be far more attractive to Democrats than a Justice Kavanaugh.

So, from the Democratic party's perspective, since no other nominee could be materially worse than Kavanaugh in their view, in a worse case scenario they postpone the addition of a bad new justice to the high court and deliver a defeat to the President, and in the best case scenario they also cause the addition of a less bad new justice to the high court.

Also, a success in defeating Justice Kavanaugh establishes a template that Democrats can follow in defeating future nominees to any kind of post who are particularly undesirable.

Realistically, not fighting the Kavanaugh nomination is the worst option available to the Democrats which provides them with no benefit whatsoever and would undermine their credibility as opponents of the regime and supporters of their principles. And, if they fail to strongly oppose his confirmation, they also set a precedent that would make it hard for Democrats to oppose future nominees who share similar personal or ideological flaws with Kavanaugh.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 16:35
  • Apologies for coming to this late but I'm not sure I understand "Also, a success in defeating Justice Kavanaugh establishes a template that Democrats can follow in defeating future nominees to any kind of post who are particularly undesirable." Are you suggesting that undesirable candidates should be attacked with claims of sexual assault? If not, what are you suggesting?
    – Philbo
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 7:27
  • 1
    @Philbo I am suggesting that they might learn how to mobilize opposition to a scandal prone nominee, whatever those scandals or flaws might be.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 19:16

There are three issues that may be on the Supreme Court's docket that very well may spell the end of a political party: Gamble v. United States, the removal of Roe v. Wade, and the question of whether a sitting president can be convicted of a crime.

  1. Gamble v. United States is about the 'separate sovereign' issue, basically removing a form of double jeopardy across state and federal lines. This is of major interest to Republicans because it looks increasingly likely that Mueller's probe will end up indicting quite a few Senators, Representatives, and campaign people before it's over. While the President can pardon Federal crimes, he cannot pardon State crimes. Mueller is currently using this fact to compel testimony in order to increase the speed of his investigation. Republicans would much rather slow things down until Mueller can be fired.

  2. Roe v. Wade. Conservatives have been trying to stack the Supreme Court for Roe's overturn since Reagan nominated Rehnquist in the 80's. This excites the Republican base at a time where they need all the help they can get to avoid losing the Senate along with the House come November.

  3. At some point, is very likely that we will see federal charges levied against Trump by the Special Prosecutor, ranging anywhere from Obstruction of Justice to Tax Fraud to Seditious Conspiracy. Kavanaugh has publicly stated that he did not believe in indicting a sitting president.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, it is nearly too late for them to find someone else for the Supreme Court before the Dems take both houses of Congress, and Trump has exerted a good amount of pressure on them to keep Kavanaugh, likely due to point three. This is a job interview, not a trial, and someone as unpopular as Kavanaugh would have been withdrawn weeks ago if it weren't for these three upcoming cases and the possibility of them tipping the Supreme Court Conservative.

  • 6
    Citation needed for #3. Charges have been right around the corner for two years. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 19:27
  • 3
    To bring a treason indictment, there would have to be probable cause that the person literally engaged in war against the United States or aided those doing so. This is literally defined by the Constitution itself. Sorry to be blunt, but a treason indictment has never been anything more than a fairy tale dream of leftists who are completely ignorant of the U.S. Constitution. (And any indictment at all of the President or a member of Congress from Mueller's probe is quite unlikely.)
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 20:24
  • 2
    @DoctorDestructo Yes, it does. Article III, Section 3: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court." (Given the context of war, 'enemies' here wouldn't just mean "people we don't like," but rather "people engaged in war against us.")
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 21:44
  • 1
    @reirab Our comments are bound to be deleted in short order, but I do think they (implicitly) suggest that an improvement to this answer is needed. People seem to be missing the main takeaway from point #3, which I think is the most important point, and is completely absent from the higher scoring answers. It might be helpful to remove the speculation about Mueller being fired and the likelihood of specific criminal charges, which are obviously distracting people from the actual point. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 23:19
  • 1
    I have removed Mueller speculation and specified 'seditious conspiracy' rather than treason.
    – Carduus
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 12:56

Beside the (still relatively remote) hope to delay the process long enough for the next Senate to decide on it, there could be some benefits in forcing Republicans to take a stance on the Kavanaugh nomination and the accusations against him, a few months before elections. It might provide video clips to build ads, allow their opponents to pain them as insensitive to sexual assault victims or women in general, as hypocrites, etc.

  • 1
    correct, the sole reason is to delay ANY nominee until after they control the senate and can just block whomever Trump puts forward by their controlling number of votes.
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 5:16
  • @jwenting That's not what I am saying. Also, delaying this nominee until the Democrat control the senate (if they ever do) could also be a way to force Trump to name a slightly less partisan candidate, not necessarily to keep the seat open for two years (that's more in the Republicans' playbook...).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 5:55

Victories are hard to come by for minority parties. By borking the nomination democrats "stand up" to Trump, which polls indicate most adults, if not likely voters want. There's the suburban women appeal of fighting an alleged abuser as well, and women are expected to be critical in the election.

The flip side is what do they have to lose by not blocking it? Base motivation, which is crucial for midterms. As such, it's a win-win for the democrats to obstruct, regardless of the outcome.

  • 14
    Perhaps add a link to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Bork#Bork_as_verb and/or an explanation, since readers may be unfamiliar with American politics from 30 years ago.
    – shoover
    Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 20:45
  • 2
    Apparently they were able to find a third option yesterday of lose (as i win-win-lose). Suggest to update. See #WalkAway
    – user9614
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 12:53
  • 1
    @Physics-Compute: I don't understand your point, can you please elaborate?
    – dandavis
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 15:01
  • 2
    @shoover - Disagree. I think most people's usage of "bork" is not based on that, but on the Muppets' Swedish Chef, which predates that usage by 15+ years. See "bork bork bork".
    – William
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 23:27
  • 5
    @William-Rem When used as a verb in the sense of thwarting a nomination to the Supreme Court, it is almost certainly a reference to Robert Bork.
    – shoover
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 1:21

Currently the Republicans have control of two of the branches of government (Executive and Legislative). If they pack the Supreme Court with partisan judges then they undermine the fundamental balance of power and the system of checks and balances.

For example, suppose Congress makes an undemocratic (IE: tyrannical) law such as making Trump President for life and the Supreme court has a majority of right wing partisans. There will be and can be no challenge.

In fact, Kavanaugh has already gone on record that the President should not be accountable to law (IE: he should be un-indictable) "so that he can concentrate on running the country". So if the court is packed with such judges the Republicans will be free to rig everything so that no one will ever be able to unseat their party, resist their tax manipulation to the benefit of plutocrats, etc.

Basically our entire democracy (if you can call it that, with the Electoral College, gerrymandering and Russian interference) is on the line. The democrats have everything to lose - their very raison d'etre.

  • 2
    Well some manipulation such as gerrymandering would be (still) on the cards. I imagine that for something as extreme as appointing a president for life would be challenged by the pre-existing right wing partisians.
    – gmatht
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 2:55
  • 2
    Except that having all three branches under the control of one party has already happened without significant consequences (FDR's rule is one example). Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 4:59
  • 6
    @JonathanReez Eh no. FDR led the country through the greatest destruction of the limitations on Federal Power. FDR's threats to the Supreme Court created decisions that empowered the Federal Government beyond the limits of enumerated powers in the Constitution, to include the creation of the General Welfare clause. Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 13:43
  • 4
    @JonathanReez Whether one likes him or hates him, it's quite a stretch to say that there were no "significant consequences" to FDR having the Congress and (through infamous threats of effectively taking over the judicial branch) the courts during his tenure. That was probably the single most significant period in American politics of the entire 20th century, leading to the creation of the welfare state and dramatic increase in the size and power of the government.
    – reirab
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 20:42
  • 1
    @reirab yeah but democracy is alive and well in the US. And the United States went on to become the world's most powerful country during FDRs rule. Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 7:31

Political benefits and moral benefits are often one and the same. Preventing someone accused of sexual assault from being confirmed to the Supreme Court without a thorough investigation is itself a political gain.

Because of this moral benefit, the optics of this situation favor the party that opposes confirming someone accused of such crimes without a full review.

  • 1
    I think this answer is directly related to a recent politics.SE question about hypocrisy: politics.stackexchange.com/q/34010/10172
    – BurnsBA
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 15:23
  • 6
    It's dubious whether it's a moral benefit (or even a long term political benefit) to establish a precedent that a nomination can be blocked by an accusation lacking evidence or arguably even credibility. But this still answers the question, because it does provide a short term political benefit. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 19:31
  • 1
    @TKK Don't worry, the accusations in this case were very credible, and multiple fake accusations just don't happen as evidenced by Neil Gorsuch. Kavanaugh On the other hand told some pretty incredible lies even about things he really didn't need to lie about (like the legal age of drinking, etc). Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 1:29
  • 1
    @TKK Also, nobody was saying block anyone who is accused, but just thoroughly investigate the claims to determine if they were true before making a decision. It would just be immoral not to, it's like saying we don't even care if it's true, so why look? Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 1:40

There's a variety of political benefits, it's difficult to actually list them exhaustively:

  • It's the expected course of action for the party to oppose judges with Kavanaugh's ideology, so the base will reward/punish senators for their actions.
  • It's the expected course of action for the party to oppose nominees who are guilty of sexual harassment/assault, so the base will reward/punish senators for their actions. The treatment of political actors by their own party in such cases (when those people decide to "tough things out") is a form of branding. Moore and Franken are two recent examples that contrast with each other.
  • Delay of a confirmation allows the situation to change, the senate may flip after the election for example.
  • Successful withdrawal of the nomination is a political win and will energize the base while depressing turnout for the Republicans. This is the common wisdom at least, and can mirror what happened with the attempted ACA repeal.
  • Dragging out the process is helpful in energizing the base this close to an election, Kavanaugh is a historically unpopular nominee, keeping him in the news is good for the party as a whole.
  • Other potential nominees can be marginal or even significant improvements over Kavanaugh in a variety of ways. For example there were rumors that Trump wanted to nominate his own sister, who actually seems to quite moderate ideologically as a judge (compared to federalist society clones), and is quite old compared to Kavanaugh.
  • Other possible nominees can have their own weaknesses, allowing them to potentially be defeated in turn or forcing the Republicans into more moderate choices. For example, Barret is in a sect of Christianity where her title in church is literally "handmaiden" and her views on abortion are well known, Senator Collins would be incapable of pretending that she thinks Roe v. Wade is "settled law".
  • "Borking" Kavanaugh is very fitting since their disqualification (prior to the multiple sexual assault allegations) is that they were first highly partisan political operatives. Democrats would be insane to not oppose someone who is their self-admitted political foe. An enemy ideologue leads to unwanted policy outcomes, which can still serve to lead to political power. A powerful partisan enemy will always lead to the worst political outcome. Both parties can draw political power from Roe v. Wade for example, but it would be hard to find one Democrat who thinks Bush v. Gore lead to a good political outcome.
  • 8
    You've made several good points here, but I would caution against using the term "guilty" for someone who has not been charged and convicted. Whatever you or I think of Kavanaugh, a confirmation is not a trial. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 16:08
  • 2
    @JonofAllTrades "guilty" in this context is purely to be seen as "guilty in the eyes of public opinion", not in any legal sense. The idea was to either make enough waves that Trump would be forced to retract Kavanaugh or to at least make enough senators believe they couldn't get reelected if they didn't drop their support for him. They couldn't care less about legalities.
    – jwenting
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 5:23

The Democrats have vowed to not allow ANY nominee put forward by President Trump to be confirmed.

At the moment the only way they can do that is through the interminable smear campaigns we've seen waged against Justice Kavanaugh.

Until a few years ago, when the fillibuster was removed as an option by the (then) democrat senate because they didn't want the Republicans to use it against them, that was their chosen tactic as it didn't make them look half as bad in the public eye.

Their hope is that if they can delay the confirmation vote until after the midterm elections in November, they will have a majority in the senate and use that to just vote any nominee whatsoever into rejection, thus making it impossible for the President to appoint any justices (or indeed anyone in any position requiring a senate vote) at all until the 2020 presidential elections.

That's the game, and they'll use whatever tactics they need to play it. This is not about Kavanaugh or Ford, Kavanaugh is an unfortunate victim and Ford a tool in their arsenal. This isn't about right or wrong, they couldn't care less whether Kavanaugh did what Ford claimed he did (which may or may not have any credibility, that too is irrelevant to them). All that matters to them is that this circus delays the confirmation vote, and they'll milk it until the vote has been lifted over the midterms. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next scripted "accusations" are already sitting in some democrat senator's file folder, ready to be "revealed" the moment the FBI says there's nothing to prevent a confirmation vote, thus delaying things even further.


Midterm elections are notorious for their low turn out. Elections, in general, are emotional rather than rational actions. No single individual can decide their outcome. So people need to have some motivation to act on what they perceive to be some sort of collective good.

The only motivation Democrats had was to delay the inevitable confirmation.

There was no way to prevent the confirmation because even if the Republicans lost the election, there would have been 2 months between the election and the swear-in date of the new Senate. During those 2 months the lame duck Senate could have confirmed the judge.

But the Democrats had an opportunity to create a cause for their base to be angry about. Anger is known to be one of the best motivations. So it's effective. This was the sole goal of looking for reasons to delay the confirmation vote by any means they could find.

  • 1
    Re "...The only motivation ... the sole goal...": that it might indeed be a goal, (i.e. one motive of several), but this sweeping answer fails to eliminate the various other possibilities detailed in other answers.
    – agc
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 15:47
  • @agc it doesn't "fail to eliminate the various other possibilities." I clearly said "there was no way to prevent the confirmation." And I justified it. So that was not the goal.
    – grovkin
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 19:26
  • Resolved that we can both agree that you have justified the statement "there was no way to prevent the confirmation." very well, if our usage of "justified" is loosened to mean: "insisted."
    – agc
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 20:18
  • @agc, no I used "justified" in its traditional plain-English sense. The balance of the paragraph which starts with the clause "there was no way to prevent the confirmation" is the justification for the clause.
    – grovkin
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 20:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .