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Kavanaugh confirmation is not inevitable

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on July 19,

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on July 19, 2018. Credit: AP / Manuel Balce Ceneta

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have been working hard to turn Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court into a coronation, even before his confirmation hearings begin.

But senators are still waiting to see hundreds of thousands of pages of records in order to scrutinize the nominee’s long and controversial career. Already, there are signs that Kavanaugh’s confirmation would represent a tremendous threat to millions of Americans.

A recent poll from Quinnipiac found that more Americans oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it. According to Gallup, Kavanaugh begins his nomination quest with the lowest public opinion ratings of any nominee in more than three decades. The most comparable past nominee? Robert Bork, who proved so unpopular that the Senate eventually rejected him.

The outcome of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, set to begin Sept. 4, is similarly not preordained. Once people learn about the judge’s unacceptable positions, they’ll realize how unsuited he is for a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court.

For example, Kavanaugh thinks presidents should be above the law. Not only has he questioned the unanimous Supreme Court decision that forced Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, he has also urged Congress to exempt sitting presidents from criminal prosecution and investigation, or even from being questioned.

Millions of Americans depend on the Affordable Care Act for coverage. Kavanaugh dissented from court decisions upholding the act - and now could be the deciding vote to deny coverage to so many women, people with pre-existing conditions, and Americans over age 50.

And while more than two-thirds of all Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade gutted or overturned, Kavanaugh has signaled his approval of Justice William Rehnquist’s dissenting arguments against Roe, and he has a track record of being willing to ignore precedents even more settled than Roe.

McConnell knows how hard it could be for a nominee like Kavanaugh to be confirmed in the most closely divided Senate in decades. Republicans hold only a 51-49 edge in that body, meaning that if Democrats hold firm, just a couple of “no” votes by Republicans can block Kavanaugh.

Those Democratic senators will be hearing from millions of constituents who want and need access to health insurance despite pre-existing conditions, not to mention the right to choose. Meanwhile, on the Republicans’ side, Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have said they may oppose any nominee who endangers a woman’s right to choose.

The belief that principled opposition can topple Kavanaugh is not just a theory. Recently, the nomination of Ryan Bounds to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals fell after senators decided they could not stomach his odious views on race.

Of course, this would be a Supreme Court fight worth having, whatever the odds. Kavanaugh’s nomination endangers health care for millions, and his confirmation would dangerously weaken the Supreme Court’s role as a check on presidential abuse of power - at a time when the president’s own former lawyer has implicated him in felony misconduct.

Americans want an open-minded jurist on the Supreme Court, not someone whose entire career signifies dedication to a political agenda. Millions of voters, grassroots activists and energized leaders know what is at stake - and they’re not going to let Mitch McConnell bluff his way to confirming a nominee who could do damage that would play out for generations.

History is not on Brett Kavanaugh’s side. The fight against his nomination is winnable.

Nan Aron is president of the Alliance for Justice, a national association of 130 organizations committed to the creation of an equitable, just and free society. This column was written for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.