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6 October 2018

Despite protests, Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court. So what next?

Both Democrat and Republican supporters have been fired-up by one of the most divisive nomination battles in American history.

By Nicky Woolf

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate 50-48 as shouts of “SHAME” echoed through the chamber. More than a dozen protesters had managed to find a seat in the chamber and as the senators cast their votes they stood up one by one.

Several waited for the vote of the one Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin. “SHAME ON YOU JOE MANCHIN,” they shouted as he cast his “aye” vote. “WE WILL NOT FORGET.” To his credit, Manchin, who is facing a near-impossible reelection fight in a state Trump carried by more than 40 points in 2016, looked the protesters in the eye as they were dragged out.

The same could not be said for Mitch McConnell, who sat smirking as the screams of protesters echoed in from the hall as the ushers and the Capitol police dragged them out.

One waited until the very end. “THIS IS A STAIN ON AMERICAN HISTORY,” she stood up and shouted as the vote-tally was confirmed. Earlier in the day, a large group of protesters had stormed the front steps of Congress. 50 or 60 of them were arrested. On Friday, making a shameful moment in American history that bit more shameful, Trump tweeted that the protesters were “paid for by Soros,” repeating a common conspiracy-theory surrounding the billionaire Holocaust-survivor financier.

So what happens now?

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The question is twofold. First, the effect of Kavanaugh on the court will soon began to be felt; the court’s decades-long progressive majority is now the minority.

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Many have suggested that Roe vs Wade, the landmark ruling enshrining the legality of abortion, could be challenged: that doesn’t look like a single ruling making abortion illegal, it looks like state-level efforts already in motion to restrict access to abortions moving faster, without the risk of a legal challenge bringing them to the Supreme Court.

The second question is what this means politically. The stunning nastiness of the fight to confirm Kavanaugh has activated the bases on both sides. Outside, on the steps of the Supreme Court, senators including Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey, and Jeff Merkley, addressed a group of several hundred protesters. “We have refused to be the women who sit down and shut up,” she said, to wild cheers. The confirmation of Kavanaugh has electrified the Democratic base.

But it has also had a similar effect on the Republican side. “It turned our base on fire,” a grinning McConnell said in a press conference after the confirmation vote.

It will be a few days until the nomination is factored-in to polling, so it is unclear what the totality of the effect is. But the pressure is rising on both sides as Democrats and Republicans advance towards a total war, salt-the-earth approach.

Joe Manchin, the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh, is likely toast in the next election; he is a Democrat senator in a deep red state, so voting for Kavanaugh was a desperate attempt to save his skin that likely won’t work. Republican Susan Collins, who was thought to be a swing vote but in the end decided to vote with her party, may now be facing a robust primary challenge from Susan Rice, Obama’s former ambassador to the UN.

It won’t be until election day on November 6 that we will find out exactly how putting Kavanaugh on the court will affect the American political landscape. But without doubt, the cracks in American society widened dramatically today.