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Let’s face it. If you ask 100 random people on the street who Brett Kavanaugh is, only a handful would know. Chances are those who recognize the name have seen him on television ads run by groups supporting or opposing his nomination to the Supreme Court.
Such is the nature of Supreme Court politics today. In a society that’s always connected, it’s amazing how minuscule the people’s connection is to a major political event such as the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice who may make it possible for an originalist adherence to the Constitution. This is the most important confirmation battle in decades.
That’s why there are so many ads, right? No, not really. Kavanaugh’s nomination battle on the airwaves is simply a vehicle for the left and the right to drive their narratives. It’s a way to get funds from people in the know so these groups can do little to inform the masses that are not in the know.
The numbers are astounding:
“Our budget for Gorsuch was 10 million [dollars],” said Carrie Severino, JCN’s chief counsel. “And we expect we will meet or surpass that given how contentious we have seen things becoming so far.”
JCN, founded in 2005, is one of four groups on the right bombarding swing-state Democrats with television ads in recent weeks. The conservative groups convene regularly for conference calls to update one another and coordinate their efforts and have launched a bus tour and phone banks, and otherwise pledged resources to the effort.
The pressure tactics used on Senators in swing states, both Democrats and moderate Republicans, is definitely intended to try to push them towards or away from confirmation, but there’s much more to it than that. Most of the Senators who are subjects of the ads are up for reelection this year. It’s a two-edged sword; they get attacked to weaken them without the money spent doing so being attributed to the opposition’s campaign. If they pledge to confirm Kavanaugh, the attack ads will be pulled. If they don’t pledge to confirm, the ads will continue to hurt their reelection chances.
If we look more closely at the tactics and messages being used, we’ll see something interesting. It’s much more about promoting a narrative than supporting or opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He’s a narrative vehicle. At the heart are the two primary court-based narratives, guns and abortion.
Let’s look at the ads run by two powerful groups for each topic, the NRA and NARAL:
It’s no surprise that these groups would frame the narrative surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation around the topics they hold dear, but it’s important to note that neither actually talk about Kavanaugh himself. They use clips of other people threatening to attack their position rather than looking at Kavanaugh himself. Why? Narrative.
Supreme Court nominations are second only to presidential campaigns when it comes to getting people to open their pocketbooks. The finality of Supreme Court decisions makes the stakes appear to be extremely high, which they are, and this sense of urgency is prime time for collecting donations to push their overall narrative.
It is highly unlikely any Senators will be swayed by the calls being prompted by these groups. It’s possible elections can be swayed, though. At the end of the day, these groups hope to get more people on board with their message. They know Kavanaugh’s confirmation is out of their hands, but that won’t stop them from raising funds around him.
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