It is a common thing for supporters of President Trump, even as early as when he was a candidate, to say “He Fights”. And yes, he does fight. He fights everyone. He gets into all kinds of scraps that are pointless and unnecessary. He insults when he doesn’t need to. He draws a bead on the thing any opponent is weakest on, and he fires away. Sometimes this is a clever move. Sometimes it is foolhardy. But the “He Fights” slogan distracts from what actually matters: that not infrequently, by fighting, he wins – as he did Friday with the announcement that not just Susan Collins, but Joe Manchin would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.
It’s the winning that matters to Republican voters, not just the fighting. He won a culture war over the flag by fighting it (and sending Mike Pence to fight it). He won a trade deal people found very unlikely by fighting. And now he won a Court seat that at many points, many smart prognosticators believed was lost. Trump’s supporters have taken over the Republican Party not just because they like him, but because they believe his approach to politics has been consistently vindicated.
This has additional side effects. When Brett Kavanaugh was at his weakest, he adopted a Trumpian tactic by fighting back, angrily and with great fury. Some suggested this was a performance for the president alone – and of course that is possible – but it is also a sign of the Republican Party becoming more Trumpian in general, not necessarily in policy, but in tone.
This is a big shift. It’s a radicalizing moment for Republicans who feel that the favorite type of Republican for the media and the Left is the sad graceful loser instead of the rude offensive victor. Republicans tired of the former have now turned to the latter.
Collins’s remarks were thorough and detailed, defending not just the decision she made, but expressing a recognition that court nominations have now morphed into full fledged political campaigns. “We’ve heard a lot of charges and counter-charges about Judge Kavanaugh, but as those who have known him best have attested, he has been an exemplary public servant, judge, teacher, coach, husband, and father,” Collins said. “Despite the turbulent, bitter fight surrounding his nomination, my fervent hope is that Brett Kavanaugh will work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court so that we have far fewer 5-4 decisions and so that public confidence in our judiciary and our highest court is restored.”
The Collins statement will be ignored in the weeks and months to come. But it reads as a statement of sad acknowledgement that the past role of the Senate is dead and gone. The reality now is tribal, confrontational, angry, and vicious, and in that environment, fighters are what the people want.