In light of Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, people around the nation are organizing rallies, letter drives, Congressional meetings, and more to ask members of the Senate to protect our rights by blocking the approval of the conservative nominee. One such rally was held last Tuesday in front of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine’s office in Manassas, Virginia. Approximately 25-30 enthusiastic people came out to urge Senator Kaine to reject Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Court – including a group of Feminist Majority Foundation interns.
As we chanted about protecting our rights and passionately waved our signs, some protesters expressed their anger at the current state of politics, yelling about the cruelties and injustices that plague our nation. Some of this outrage was directed towards Senator Kaine and his staffers, who had come down to meet with us and listen to our concerns. The protesters were troubled that Senator Kaine had not outwardly spoken out against Kavanaugh’s nomination and had instead released a statement clarifying that his decision would not be finalized until his one-on-one meeting with the Judge. His statement further urged Virginians to send feedback, to ensure that he provides a voice to his constituents now and in the upcoming election.
The apparent anger of some of the protesters no doubt blossoms from fear and frustration over the present political climate: we have more than a right to be angry right now. But it is important to understand that there is a reason for the ambiguity in the Senator’s statement.
While there is a gut reaction to be enraged at your Senators if they do not immediately denounce the confirmation of any Trump Supreme Court nominee, there is a political strategy being played out behind the scenes. By holding the one-on-one meeting with Kavanaugh, Senator Kaine – along with the other Senators who have agreed to these personal meetings – will have the opportunity to hear Kavanaugh’s opinions first-hand on critical issues such as abortion rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, environmental protections, and workers’ rights – issues he has not explicitly spoken about as a nominee. This gives Senators a chance to obtain direct quotes and sound bites from Kavanaugh, which could be potentially damaging in his confirmation hearings. Any critical information gathered from these meetings could also be used to convince Senators on the fence for Kavanaugh’s confirmation to vote ‘nay’.
The time afforded by these meetings is beneficial for political organizing as well. By not coming out strong from the jump, Senators are providing activists with crucial organizing – and stalling – time. This time allows activists to strategically plan grassroots and grasstops advocacy efforts to convince Senators who are still unsure (such as Senator Collins of Maine and Senator Murkowski of Alaska) to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation based on issues important to them and their constituents, like reproductive rights and healthcare.
While it is easy to become quickly disheartened with every turn of the news cycle, it is critical to understand that there is strategy in our advocacy. Efficient and effective political planning requires great time and effort, and we cannot always be so quick to respond with anger and backlash. It is important now more than ever that we stand united in our efforts.