So, this is the United States of America in 2018. This is the US government in 2018. Even if one believes Professor Ford and others fabricated their statements or had cases of mistaken identity, and even if one believes Judge Kavanaugh’s temperament is fine for the Supreme Court, this level of aggressive division across US government and culture is toxic.
It is impossible to achieve true justice without creating safe space for women. Despite what the President may suggest about this being a scary time for young men in America, it is a scarier time for young women in America, and it has been scarier for women for a long time. The fact that many elected officials do not see this gap between genders is the essence of male privilege. The United States is toxic right now, and I do not recognize it.
So, where do we go from here? Expanding on one of my recent Twitter posts, what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly?
The Good: one does not need to look very far to see that a movement for social justice and equality is picking up speed. If that movement can stay organized, keep the pressure for democratic principles up, and transition into getting the vote out over the next month (lots of states have early voting), all might not be in vain. What was partially good? We had an investigation…of sorts. Though some believe otherwise, I maintain that an investigation was necessary, and the fact that it happened after considerable pressure is a good thing. However, that investigation appears to be largely incomplete, called a sham by some. Witnesses were questioned – not enough – and more importantly, some accusers were not consulted. In this age of 24/7 media, it feels like more info came to light that didn’t make it onto the FBI report than whatever was actually included in that document. This flow of information, including leaks, continues to charge the growing social justice movement and influence the court of public opinion, firing up both supporters and the opposition. Election season is here, so it is critical to channel the energy of this movement out to constituents and mobilize the electorate. Raise your voices, but also get out and vote!
The bad: this investigation stunk of politics at best and smelled of a cover-up at worst. At face value it is hard to believe that anyone actually planned to reconsider their vote based on the report, and amazingly, historic protests also did not ultimately have political pull. Would anything have changed minds, or was this all political theater?
The ugly: both parties are competing dumpster fires. The vitriol is at new heights, and one could easily compile hours of shameful soundbites, spoken especially by members of the Republican Party, but the Democrats also had their less-than-stellar moments. The haste by Republican leadership to call a vote despite all this drama and uncertainty and the rush to finish despite the visible pain being felt by sexual assault survivors across the country further suggests that this was government working above, not for, the people. Even now, it is starting to feel as if government is afraid of some of the people it is charged to serve.
The Democratic Party also missed an opportunity here. As Professor Ford’s accusation and the other accusations unfolded, the story of Judge Kavanaugh began to sound more like a criminal trial than a confirmation hearing (essentially a job interview). Some democrats accepted that frame and probably should not have, for it opened up a door to others suggesting the party was flipping a cornerstone of justice and presuming guilt rather than innocence. Determining whether or not Kavanaugh committed sexual assault was only part of the issue. The main issue before the Senate was whether he is fit for a lifetime position on the Supreme Court.
Somewhere in the last few weeks this became only about guilt or innocence and not about character, and in this, the United States stepped further down a divisive path that could easily take a generation or more to truly heal. The US is no longer a safe place for women, for Congress has silenced their voices in the most callous fashion. Even if you don’t believe the accusers, the optics of women across the country coming forward to the people elected to represent them, only to be given the cold shoulder or told to grow up is deeply concerning. When half the population doesn’t feel safe or heard or equal, none of us are truly free.
I weep for the end of democracy in America. Some might think this is hyperbole, but let me put it this way: a man with multiple accusations hanging over him and extreme views on many of the most important issues of the day – specifically issues that impact women and minorities, working people, and all of us when it comes to health care and executive power – is now sitting on the bench of the highest court in the land, set to start work on Tuesday. This is a man who also demonstrated considerable anger during his hearing. And even with all we know about him, there is so much more that was never disclosed. We will learn more about Justice Kavanaugh in the coming months and years, but that knowledge will only come through the ways he further shapes this country from the bench, not from the true bipartisan vetting expected during the confirmation process.
Does that sound democratic to you?
But there might be hope. Keep in mind that Kavanaugh was nominated by a President who did not win the popular vote. The 49 Senators who voted ‘No’ represent a little over 180 million people. The 51 Senators who voted ‘Yes’ represent less than 150 million people. How’s the electoral college working for you? It’s time to transform it. But first, we must vote. We must all vote.
Rest in peace, Democracy. Perhaps we can still resuscitate you. As Benjamin Franklin replied when asked if we had a republic or a monarchy, “a republic, if you can keep it.” Can we?