Kavanaugh is the product of a community. He is the product of a conservative legal infrastructure that develops ideas, recruits talent, links rising stars, nurtures genius, molds and launches judicial nominees. It almost doesn’t matter which Republican is president. The conservative legal infrastructure is the entity driving the whole project. It almost doesn’t even matter if Kavanaugh is confirmed or shot down; there are dozens more who can fill the vacancy, just as smart and just as conservative.
This community didn’t just happen; it was self-consciously built. If you want to understand how to permanently change the political landscape, it’s a good idea to study and be inspired how it was done.
Back in the 1970s, the legal establishment was liberal. Yale Law School was the dynamic center of liberal legal thinking. Lawyers who had begun their careers during the New Deal were at the height of their power and prestige. The Ford Foundation funded a series of legal aid organizations to advance liberal causes and to dominate the law schools.
.. Business groups funded a series of conservative public interest law firms. But the business groups had no intellectual heft, they were opportunistic and they had zero moral appeal.
.. First came the critique. In 1980, Michael Horowitz wrote a seminal report for the Sarah Scaife Foundation, explaining why conservatives were impotent in the legal sphere. Horowitz suggested, for example, that conservative legal organizations pick cases in which they represented underdogs against big institutions associated with the left.
.. Then came the intellectual entrepreneurs. Aaron Director of the University of Chicago Law School inspired many of the thinkers — like Ronald Coase and Richard Posner — who would create the law and economics movement.
.. This movement was funded by groups like the John M. Olin Foundation, which was willing to invest for the long term and not worry about “metrics” or “measurable outcomes.”
.. Then came the network entrepreneurs. In 1982, a group of law students including Lee Liberman Otis, David McIntosh and Steven Calabresi founded the Federalist Society, which was fundamentally a debating society.
.. The Federalist Society spread to other law schools and beyond pretty quickly. It turned into a friendship community and a professional network, identifying conservative law students who could be promoted to fill clerkships.
.. the key features of the Federalist Society were the limits it would put on itself. It did not take stands on specific policy issues. It did not sponsor litigation on behalf of favorite causes. It did not rate judicial nominees the way the American Bar Association did.
.. Otis, McIntosh and Calabresi all went to work in the Reagan administration. They are now part of a vast army of conservative legal cadres, several generations deep, working throughout the system or at organizations like the Center for Individual Rights and the Institute for Justice.
.. Trump bucked the conservative foreign policy establishment and the conservative economic establishment, but he’s given the conservative legal establishment more power than ever before, which is why there are so few never-Trumpers in legal circles.
.. The members often break down on libertarian versus conservative lines, or, as we saw in the behind the scenes jockeying recently, between social conservatives (for Amy Coney Barrett) and establishment conservatives (for Brett Kavanaugh).
In focus groups I conduct across the country, even Republican voters who readily acknowledge Trump was not their first or even tenth choice in the Republican primary in 2017 will nonetheless say they are glad he is picking fights, breaking things, and draining the swamp. Last week, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans tied its record high of 90 percent.
.. a taxonomy of Republican leaders with four different categories.
..  The first category of D.C. Republican is the Trump enthusiast. The true believer, the die hard. This is the type of person who was aboard the Trump Train from the get-go, someone for whom the Republican Party of Donald Trump is the party they’ve always hoped for. Tough on immigration and trade, never enamored of Bush-era foreign policy, thrilled to have overthrown the old guard, this is the type of individual for whom a Trump administration has made Washington their oyster.
 The second category of D.C. Republican is the establishmentarian. Someone who was perfectly comfortable under the “old ways” but has adapted quickly to survive in their new, harsher environs. They play for Team GOP and Trump is their quarterback, so they’re happy to run his plays as long as they keep winning games. Trump was not toward the top of their list of possible choices for a nominee in 2016, but once he was picked, he was the guy and it was time to fall in line. A significant portion of Capitol Hill and the Republican Party apparatus fits into this category. Do they love the tweeting? Not really. Do they care enough to object? Absolutely not, not so long as regulations are being reformed and taxes are being cut.
 .. The third category is the internal opposition. As the continuing echo of the “Never Trump” movement, they view Trump as consistently wrong and categorically dangerous. They have found common cause with Democrats in the #Resistance, holding semi-secret meetings to discuss how to combat what they view as a hostile parasite that has found in the GOP a too-willing host. There is very little that they find praiseworthy about the current moment, and there have even been moments where some, like former presidential candidate Evan McMullin, have actively called for the defeat of mainstream Republicans at the ballot box as a way of teaching the party a lesson.
.. The irony is that Mr. Ryan has become a target of the populist and Trump right though few in Congress have fought harder or longer for conservative reform.
.. They have railed against Mr. Ryan as a totem of “the establishment,” which was always more epithet than argument. Mr. Ryan knows that the point of politics is to win power to pass your agenda, not remain in feckless opposition to the supposedly unreformable entitlement state.
.. Mr. Ryan has already raised $54 million in campaign cash for his fellow Members this Congress, and their fate is tied far more to Donald Trump’s approval rating than to Mr. Ryan’s candidacy.
Pompeo’s ascent underscores just how many politicians who came to prominence with the tea party — including Vice President Pence, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney — now occupy powerful positions in Trump’s administration. Depending on how far Trump goes to try to remake the GOP in his image, tea party alumni may form the core of a new Republican establishment.
.. The grievances that animated the movement and fed Trump’s presidential candidacy live on. The tea party’s insurgent impulses have fused with his erratic populism to become one of the three contending forces in the Republican Party — the other two being establishment Republicanism and ideological conservatism. Tillerson’s fall is a prime example of how traditional Republicans are becoming yesterday’s men and women in the Trumpified GOP. Tomorrow, will it be the ideological conservatives like House Speaker Paul Ryan?.. The Washington Post reported that Trump disdained Tillerson, the pro-big-business former ExxonMobil CEO, for being “too establishment” in his thinking, by which the president seems to have meant Tillerson’s prudence (at least in relation to Trump), adherence to traditional diplomatic protocols, and unwillingness to rip up trade agreements and the Iran nuclear deal.Pompeo, on the other hand, first won election to Congress in 2010 as a tea party favorite, in a race where some of his supporters urged Kansans to “Vote American ” to defeat his Indian American opponent... party leaders were uneasily aware that the tea party stood apart from the Republican Party and in some ways defined itself in angry opposition to the GOP establishment. (The divide plagued the speakership of John Boehner and ultimately helped lead to his resignation.).. Republican and Democratic leaders came across to tea party activists as equally uninterested in their worries about immigration, the loss of jobs and industry to global economic competition, and a social agenda of “political correctness” pushed by academia and the media. Trump built his movement by championing these issues both parties seemed to ignore and projecting a willingness to fight to the death rather than surrender... In the long view of history, the tea party was one more episode in a series of right-wing populist revolts that marked the development of the modern conservative movement.
- .. President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, squelchedSen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade, while the conservative intellectual champion
- William F. Buckley Jr. expelled the conspiracy-mongering John Birch Society from the respectable right. At other times, leaders like
- Ronald Reagan brought conservative activists into the mainstream of the GOP without permitting them to engage in intra-party fratricide.
.. When the conservative supporters of Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona came together in the early 1960s, for example, they took over many state and local party organizations and threw out anyone they deemed insufficiently committed to the cause.
.. As for Burch, after Goldwater’s massive defeat, he repented and told the RNC that “this party needs two wings, two wings and a center, or I fear it may never fly again.”
.. The grievances of most tea party supporters didn’t fade with time but were inflamed by Trump’s campaign, which strengthened the movement’s tendency to view opponents as illegitimate and un-American, and compromise as treason.
.. Despite the tea party’s provenance as a conservative movement, there was little about past political patterns and practices that it wanted to conserve. Activists hoped not only to “throw the bums out” but also to get rid of anything that passed for the status quo.
.. The affinity of tea party veterans for Trump is based in part on their common interest in disruption. Ryan may soon be in trouble because his authority and his orthodox conservatism have become another establishment to be overthrown