It feels like it’s been a long time since I wrote a political post for this website. That’s actually not true—if you click on the Politics category you’ll see I’ve written a few short political posts this year—but seeing as how I’ve been focusing so much on gaming and travel-related posts lately it seems like I haven’t done one of these in quite awhile. I think part of me was kind of hoping to get through at least the rest of the year without sticking my hands in the fire again, but I should have known better than to hope for such good fortune. As I’m guessing most of you know, not too long ago President Trump’s nominee for a spot on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, got caught up in multiple allegations of sexual misdeeds. Originally I had no plans to write anything about what was happening, but the situation just got crazier with every passing day and I soon got the feeling that I’d have to say something about it. On October 1 my friend Ben publicly called me out on Twitter to write my thoughts on the Kavanaugh saga and that was the final nail in the coffin. “Curse you Ben for dragging me back into this swamp!” I (jokingly) shouted in my head. I still wasn’t eager to write about it, given how hot tempers were flaring on all sides, but there was now no getting out of this task. Today I’m finally publishing my opinions on the matter. I’m completely aware that this has been a very sensitive subject and my personal conclusions are bound to upset some people. If the wounds from the Kavanaugh saga are still too fresh and/or you’re sick of reading political opinions—and I wouldn’t blame you either way—then please do not feel compelled to read any further. Today’s post is also significantly longer than most of the other things I publish on this website, so make sure you’ve got a comfy seat ready.
Before I get started on my thoughts about the Kavanaugh saga let me briefly make clear my political inclinations so that you know where I’m coming from. Politically I would consider myself center-right, though I have a few liberal positions. At no point have I ever been registered with any political party and in the 2016 election I voted for a third-party presidential candidate (yes, I was one of those people). I would not consider myself any sort of political or legal expert and I don’t even particularly like keeping up with politics, but it seems there’s at least a few times a year when I get caught up in the political theater in Washington DC.
The saga of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation got so chaotic that I had to consult timelines to keep all of my dates straight as I was brainstorming this writing piece. Consequently I decided to write out the events and my thoughts on them in approximate chronological order. I’m guessing most people at this point know at least the rough outline of how the Kavanaugh saga played out, but for those that don’t hopefully this format will be helpful.
Like most Americans, I had never heard of Brett Kavanaugh before his name appeared on the shortlist of judges that President Trump was considering for the open spot on the Supreme Court. When Trump officially announced in July that Kavanaugh was his nominee there was the expected wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Left, but interestingly I also saw bits of disappointment coming from some figures on the Right. Yes, Kavanaugh was a conservative and with his confirmation the Republicans would finally achieve the majority on the Supreme Court that they had been trying to secure for decades, but with Republicans holding a majority in the Senate some pundits and social media personalities argued that Trump should have picked an even more conservative judge to push through the confirmation process. Amy Coney Barrett was a common alternative to Kavanaugh that I saw being mentioned. There was also a lot of skepticism about whether Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and many were saying he was more likely to merely chip away at Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Trump, however, had made his choice and not long afterwards Kavanuagh disappeared to undergo the necessary preparations for his future appearance in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as to undergo multiple FBI background checks. For the next few weeks I completely forgot about Kavanaugh, as I’m guessing much of the rest of the country did.
When the confirmation hearings began on September 4 I decided to watch and listen in on them while I was at work. I wasn’t able to catch the entirety of all four days of the hearings but I did see and hear most of them. Kavanaugh was doing the normal routine of Supreme Court nominees that has unfortunately been a requirement of every nominee since the infamous 1987 confirmation hearings of Robert Bork. Senators would ask him questions and he would give very carefully worded and sometimes vague answers. Much more notable, on the other hand, were all the times the hearings were interrupted by protestors. The second day in particular was really bad and it seemed like the senators and/or Kavanaugh could hardly go for ten minutes before someone in the back began shouting and had to be removed by security. On the third day I happened to be listening when Senator Cory “Spartacus” Booker tried to martyr himself ahead of his 2020 presidential run by releasing emails what he thought were classified documents with damning information about Kavanaugh’s opinion on racial profiling. Embarrassingly for Senator Booker, the documents had already been declassified and actually showed that Kavanaugh in fact was probably not a racist. On the fourth day the hearings wrapped up with the Judiciary Committee questioning additional witnesses to get their input on Kavanaugh but at that point it seemed like the show was over. The Democrats had failed to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination and I think we all assumed that Kavanaugh was safely on his way to a narrow confirmation vote the following week.
Oh, how wrong we all were. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Senator Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, had been carrying a nuclear weapon in her back pocket in the form of a letter from Dr Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, that accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school. Dr Ford had sent the letter to Senator Feinstein’s office back at the end of July and per Dr Ford’s request Senator Feinstein had not released it to the public. I can completely understand Senator Feinstein honoring Dr Ford’s desire to remain anonymous but I really don’t see why she didn’t ask Kavanaugh any questions during the initial hearings about potential sexual misdeeds he may have committed. What the Democrats should have done is told Senator Booker to keep his mouth shut on Day 3 and let Senator Feinstein drop an actual bombshell instead of his dud. Failing to bring up the subject made it look like the Democrats were playing a really dirty trick when rumors of the letter’s existence started to swirl a few days after the hearings had wrapped up. Soon the allegations against Kavanaugh were leaked to the press and at that point it was too late to avoid the bad optics. On September 14 the allegations were first published in The New Yorker, though it would be another two days before Dr Ford was specifically named by the press. Senator Feinstein’s nuke had officially been detonated.
When the sexual assault allegations were first revealed there was a wide spectrum of opinions on what it should mean for Kavanaugh’s nomination. At one end we had people saying his nomination should be withdrawn automatically, regardless of whether the claims were true, and at the other end there were people saying that he should still be confirmed to the Supreme Court even if the claims were true (their reasoning mainly being that the act happened when both persons were teenagers and we should be more lenient on stupid things people did when they were kids). For me this was a tough call since it pitted two of my values against each other. On one hand I think sexual assault is a horrendous crime that disqualifies a person from being fit for the highest political offices, but on the other hand I’m really big on giving people second chances, especially when their bad deeds were far in the past or when they were a minor and they have a good track record since then. The factors that reconciled these two competing values of mine and brought me to my position on the allegations were confession and repentance. If Kavanaugh had in fact sexually assaulted Dr Ford back 30-some years ago, but had confessed it at the time, repented of his deeds (and apologized to Dr Ford), served whatever sentence the judge at his trial deemed appropriate, and then lived an overall upstanding life afterwards, then we could talk about perhaps not letting this disqualify him from sitting on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, however, had never confessed to sexually assaulting anyone and would deny Dr Ford’s charges when they came out. Therefore, my position on what to do with Kavanaugh’s nomination was that if sufficient evidence could be mustered to show that it was more likely than not that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted Dr Ford then his nomination should be withdrawn.
Another thing that I was split about was the calls for a lengthy FBI investigation. While I understood the surface level merit to have the FBI do a length investigation I was very skeptical of the motives of those calling for it. This was very clearly an attempt to delay Kavanaugh’s confirmation past the November midterm elections when the Democrats had a chance to retake the Senate and then could block him from getting on the Supreme Court. On top of this it seemed like a lot of people had very unrealistic ideas of what the FBI could do in this situation. The FBI are not magical timecops and with a case this old and of this type it’s extremely improbable they would be able to prove anything. The results of the investigation would at best be inconclusive. Later on we got what I thought was a good compromise in that the FBI were ordered to do additional interviews of people related to Dr Ford’s allegations, though I do wish the results of those interviews were made available to the public.
What was more irritating than the calls for a length FBI investigation, however, was the popular talking point during this time that the confirmation process was just a job interview and thus Kavanaugh was not entitled to due process. The idea that the confirmation process for a seat on the Supreme Court is merely a job interview sounds rather dubious in my mind, and even if it was, in what kind of crazy job interview does an outside person come barging in with uncorroborated allegations that the interviewee committed sexual assault and then half of the interviewers actively work to completely destroy the interviewee? Would the people saying that the accused bears the burden of proof honestly be ok with this if they were in Kavanaugh’s situation where not just his whole career but also his entire personal life is on the line? During the first year of the #MeToo movement we saw how quickly people changed their tune when they or their friends were the ones being accused of sexual misdeeds and I don’t doubt we’d see more of the same hypocrisy if the people demanding Kavanaugh prove his innocence were put in similar positions. Also, if this really is just a job interview then no one has any right to complain about what happened to Merrick Garland back in 2016.
The days between when Dr Ford’s allegations were first rumored and the September 27 hearing on them were nothing short of peak insanity. Kavanuagh categorically denied the allegations made against him but his confirmation vote in the Judiciary Committee was promptly cancelled while the media went wild with Dr Ford’s story and the Republicans tried to regroup. Things got worse for Kavanaugh as negotiations between the Judiciary Committee and Dr Ford’s lawyers stalled out for days and then on the same day that an agreement was finally made Kavanaugh got hit with two additional accusations against him. First The New Yorker published an article about a woman named Debra Ramirez who accused Kavanaugh of thrusting his exposed genitals in her face during a dorm party while they were attending Yale. Shortly thereafter Michael Avenatti, the man best known as being the lawyer of porn star Stormy Daniels and the current 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner, announced on Twitter that he was representing a third woman with allegations against Kavanaugh. On September 26 that third woman was revealed to be Julie Swetnick and she claimed to have witnessed multiple instances of Kavanaugh drinking to excess and participating in gang rape. Just like that, the stakes for Kavanaugh had escalated dramatically. If the gang rape accusations were credible then he wouldn’t merely be withdrawn from consideration for the Supreme Court—his entire career and personal life would be over and he’d probably face criminal prosecution. Kavanaugh strongly denied the new accusations made against him but the situation for his nomination appeared to be deteriorating rapidly. As September 26 came to a close I was uncertain of Kavanaugh’s chances of survival.
Truth and perception, however, frequently do not match up. Three separate allegations had been brought against Kavanaugh but only Dr Ford’s deserved an actual hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Actually, there were five total allegations but the fourth allegation was quickly recanted and the fifth allegation comes from an anonymous letter and has never gained any traction. The decision to only grant a hearing to Dr Ford was the correct one in my opinion, seeing as her claim was the only one that had a chance of being credible. Let me explain why the other two didn’t deserve the Senate’s time. Julie Swetnick’s accusation should have been kicked to the curb soon after it was officially made on the 26th for the sheer absurdity of it all. If Kavanaugh really did participate in multiple acts of gang rape there would be a ton of corroborating evidence but Michael Avenatti failed to supply any and none of the four potential witnesses named by Swetnick were able to confirm her claims. One turned out to be dead and another denied even knowing her. Further investigation by the Wall Street Journal turned up zero witnesses to corroborate Swetnick’s claims and by then everyone should have known that this was a wild goose chase. Also, if Swetnick kept going back over and over again to parties where she knew gang rape was happening and never told the cops about it then there might be a case that she’s complicit in the gang rapes and it would definitely make any reasonable person question both her character and credibility. The Debra Ramirez allegations were not nearly as far-fetched as Swetnick’s but they too would cause any reasonable person to hesitate. Ramirez herself admitted that she wasn’t sure if it was Kavanuagh who put his junk in her face and no witnesses could corroborate Ramirez’s claim or even confirm if Kavanaugh was at the party where Ramirez said the incident happened. A fellow Yale alumnus claimed that another person had told him that Kavanaugh did in fact do the deed but when that other person was contacted they denied this. A complete lack of evidence for the accusations and a lack of confidence from the accuser makes for a case that must by necessity be dismissed. Of course, many in the media could have cared less about such things and they went wild with both Swetnick and Ramirez’s stories and in a really cynical way I can’t say that I blame them, seeing as how the allegations were likely doing gangbusters for them in terms of TV ratings and Internet traffic.
So then, there’s a question that I imagine is now on a lot of people’s minds: Why did I think that Dr Ford’s case might have a chance of being credible? I think the reasons why I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt were threefold. First, unlike Swetnick’s allegation, Dr Ford’s claim actually sounded like something that might have happened. Second, unlike Ramirez, Dr Ford seemed certain that it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her. Third, Dr Ford had made her accusations all the way back in July, shortly after Kavanaugh’s nomination and long before anyone else, so in my mind her case didn’t have the stench of an opportunistic publicity grab like both the Swetnick and Ramirez cases did. True, Senator Feinstein had completely mishandled Dr Ford’s case by holding onto it until after Kavanaugh’s initial hearing, but that wasn’t Dr Ford’s fault. I also didn’t fault Dr Ford for waiting over 30 years before publicly accusing Kavanaugh. Sexual assault is a deeply humiliating and traumatic crime that wounds a person right down to their soul and it can take years or decades for a person to summon the courage needed to talk about it. Dr Ford still had yet to supply any evidence to back up her claims, but I was willing to hear her out at the September 27 Judiciary Committee hearing.
And what a hearing it was. I, along with millions of others, watched the hearing live and witnessed a spectacle that’s sure to eventually be a major scene whenever the Kavanaugh saga inevitably is turned into a movie or TV series. Dr Ford went first and was cross-examined by Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor that Republicans had hired to do the questioning for them. Having a woman question Dr Ford was a smart move by the Republicans, seeing as how it would look bad if a bunch of men were interrogating her and because senators (of both parties) are notoriously bad at cross-examining people, however the Republicans really shot themselves in the foot by agreeing to format the hearings such that Mitchell could only ask questions for five minutes before being interrupted by the Democrats. I’m not a lawyer, but even I know it’s really hard to build a strong line of questions that develop a narrative when you’re getting stopped every five minutes by senators grandstanding and trying to make themselves look good ahead of their 2020 presidential runs. To her credit, Mitchell did her best with the cards she was dealt and I do think she managed to draw out answers that seriously damaged the credibility of Dr Ford’s allegations. Over and over again, Dr Ford could not supply information that would corroborate her claims and her testimony was sometimes inconsistent with previous statements she had made. Two days after the hearing Mitchell released a memo that summarized her opinions on Dr Ford’s allegations and if you have time you can read it here. Mitchell is a registered Republican, so her report undoubtedly a bit biased, and there are a few sections that probably should have been cut to make the memo stronger, but overall it’s good summary of the flaws in Dr Ford’s case. Democrats, for their part, did nothing to help Dr Ford and instead of giving her chances to reinforce her case they all opted to make speeches and call for a lengthy FBI investigation. I think it was here that I came to the conclusion that the Democrats didn’t actually care about Dr Ford and were just using her as a pawn to block Kavanaugh’s nomination. When Dr Ford’s hearing wrapped up I was very split. Her testimony was emotionally powerful and even if you thought she was a malicious liar I don’t see how you could have watched it without having your heartstrings pulled. Later that day I remember seeing people online being highly critical of the Dr Ford’s performance in that she was frequently trembling, had a weak voice, and oftentimes seemed to be on the brink of sobbing uncontrollably. Some were saying it was all an act but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she was genuinely nervous. Were I in her place I’d be pretty nervous too and I don’t know how I’d hold up in the same situation. At the same time, however, Dr Ford had utterly failed to provide corroborating evidence for her claims and had instead made her case seem much shakier. My heart sympathized, but my brain was screaming that something was very wrong with these allegations.
Following an intermission it was Brett Kavanaugh’s turn in the hot seat. As he sat down I was debating in my head how he’d handle his opening statement and I was thinking he’d go for the calm, collected approach but boy was I wrong. Kavanaugh delivered one of the most powerful opening statements I’ve ever seen or heard. You could not fit enough fire emojis on a smartphone screen to describe how lit it was. At times angry and at times weeping, Kavanaugh stood his ground with a passion I didn’t know he was capable of. By the time he was done I was completely won over. I looked over at my boss, who was watching the hearings with me while we were at our office, and told him that Kavanaugh was either innocent or the greatest actor of his generation. Of course, that was just the opening statement and Kavanaugh still had to undergo questioning to defend himself. Kavanaugh’s answers to the Democrat’s questions were not as fiery though at one point he made an unkind retort to a senator probing him about his high school and college drinking habits. Later in the hearing he apologized for this but it was not a good moment for Kavanaugh and would certainly provide fodder for those seeking to portray him as unhinged. Kavanaugh’s first line of defense was his personal calendar from the summer of 1982—the approximate time period when the sexual assault supposedly happened—which he sought to use to show that he was really busy that summer and didn’t attend any parties that matched the one Dr Ford described in her testimony. (As interesting side note, the Democrats after the hearing finished briefly latched onto an event listed for July 1 that included some of the people Dr Ford said were at the one where she was assaulted, however they dropped that claim when it became clear that the house the party was at did not match the one Dr Ford described.) I’m impressed that Kavanaugh still had his old 1982 calendar—I also had a personal calendar when I was in high school but I recycled it long ago—though I’m not sure it really helped his case much. The calendar doesn’t show that Kavanaugh knew about or attended a party matching the one in Dr Ford’s testimony but it certainly could have been something he didn’t write down. As the hearing progressed I got the impression that the Democrats three main lines of attack were to get Kavanaugh to admit that he might have drank to the point where he didn’t remember events, to get him to call for a lengthy FBI investigation, and to get him to admit there was something incriminating in the writings of his high school yearbook and calendar. Kavanaugh seemed to be wise to their strategy and held the line until the questioning was over. He admitted that he drank too much in high school or college but denied ever being blackout drunk, he managed to step around the calls for an FBI investigation, and he had answers ready for the questions about the various bits of slang and shorthand that were in his yearbook and calendar. When it was the Republicans turn to speak they chose to take back questioning duties from Rachel Mitchell and also did a little pontificating about what they saw as disgraceful behavior from the Democrats. When the hearing ended I was in a completely different place than I had been 24 hours prior. Kavanaugh’s case seemed to be in bad shape the previous day but now it was very much alive.
Interestingly, in the days after the hearing it came to light that there’s a chance that both Kavanaugh and Dr Ford may have lied during their testimonies. Multiple perjury claims were made against Kavanaugh but all them were shown to be false except for possibly the claim that he wasn’t truthful about his drinking habits. A few former classmates have claimed that they saw Kavanaugh drink to the point of blacking out, which if true would undermine the credibility of his defense and raise the possibility that he sexually assaulted someone and didn’t remember it. The problem, however, is that it’s impossible for a third party to actually know if another person has blacked out and can’t remember what happened to them. The only person who knows for sure if Kavanaugh blacked out is Kavanaugh himself, and he’s already denied the claim so unless he suddenly confesses to lying about this there’s no way to prove the charge. In Dr Ford’s case, a former boyfriend of hers submitted a sworn testimony that claims Dr Ford lied when she said under oath that she had never given advice to anyone who was going to be taking a polygraph test. The ex-boyfriend’s statement says that he witnessed Dr Ford coaching a friend about polygraph tests and if true this would further damage the credibility of Dr Ford’s case but as of the time that I’m writing this post (the week of October 14-20) it doesn’t look like this claim is being investigated.
Another thing that also came after the hearing on September 27 was the debate over Kavanaugh’s anger in his opening statement. Some people were arguing that it showed he was unhinged and thus unfit for the Supreme Court but I would have to very strongly disagree. Kavanaugh kept an even keel during the dozens of hours of his initial Judiciary Committee hearing and I can’t find any records of him flipping out during the years he spent as a federal judge. It was only after he was accused first of sexual assault and then gang rape that he got fired up—and I suspect it was the latter accusation that pushed him over the edge. If I was falsely accused of gang raped and had to watch my wife and children get caught up in the torrent of abuse coming my way I’d be pretty pissed off and I’m actually impressed that Kavanaugh restrained himself from going full scorched-earth in the September 27 hearing.
Oh, and where were you when Lindsey Graham 2.0 was born? I’m not sure who wrote this software update but it finished installing during the hearing and turned a man who was the living definition of a boring, milquetoast Republican into a beast with an adamantium spine. The way he tore into Democrats at the hearing and in the days afterwards was almost as surprising as the power of Kavanaugh’s opening statement. Senator Graham’s upgrade also seems to have played a big part in strengthening the resolve of Senate Republicans to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. From the reveal of Dr Ford’s allegations up until this point Republicans had frankly been looking kind of weak but with Senator Graham’s newfound spirit they started to rally. While it’s still too early to say for sure I’m guessing that a number of historians will credit Lindsey Graham 2.0 with saving Kavanaugh’s nomination in the Judiciary Committee.
When September 28 arrived we came to the fateful day that would either advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate or see him rejected. I got to my office that morning and started watching the proceedings when the time of the Judiciary Committee vote was getting close. It was clear that this was going to be a party-line vote but there was major wildcard in Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. Senator Flake was known to be the least committed of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee and on his way to the vote he was cornered in a senators-only elevator by a pair of activists who yelled at him for several minutes. Why the Republican leadership was so stupid as to not provide a security escort for the Republican senator who was most likely to get cold feet and torpedo Kavanaugh’s nomination is beyond me. Senator Flake eventually arrived at the Judiciary Committee room but was visibly shaken by his encounter in the elevator.
I left my office to go the gym during my lunch break and continued to watch the unfolding events on the TVs there while I was working out. Something had clearly happened during the time when I left the office and got to the gym because Senator Flake was now meeting with several Democrats in a back room and the vote on Kavanaugh had been delayed. The commentators for CNN and MSNBC were speculating as to what was happening and for what felt like an eternity I was just burning calories on an elliptical machine while waiting for new developments. After awhile Senator Flake and the Democrats returned to the room and Senator Flake called for a one-week delay in the full Senate vote on Kavanaugh, but he did not object to voting Kavanaugh’s nomination out of the Judiciary Committee. Chairman Chuck Grassley, the Republican Senator in charge of the Judiciary Committee, at that point was done with sitting around and immediately called a vote on Kavanaugh. This caught the Democrats by surprise and I remember Senator Feinstein looking completely befuddled by this move. An 11-10 vote advanced Kavanaugh’s nomination on to the full Senate, though the Judiciary Committee did agree to ask President Trump to order a supplemental FBI investigation into Dr Ford’s claims and the full Senate vote would be delayed several days for the FBI to do its work.
Over the weekend of September 29-30 I tried to unplug a bit from the Kavanaugh saga seeing as how the whole thing was getting really depressing. Unfortunately for me, new developments just kept coming. At some point over that weekend the Democrats and those in the media who opposed Kavanaugh suddenly changed tactics and stopped hammering on the charge that he had sexually assaulted Dr Ford. Now all the talk was about whether he was too emotionally unstable for the Supreme Court, whether he had lied about the slang in his yearbook, and the nature of his college drinking habits, among other things. I, along with many others, had a hunch as to what had just happened. The Democrats had realized that Dr Ford’s case had utterly fallen apart and had promptly thrown her under the bus now that she was no longer useful to them. They needed something else to nail Kavanaugh with and were desperately hurling anything and everything at him, hoping that something would stick.
President Trump must have also seen the way the wind was blowing because he began indulging in his favorite pastime: insulting and trolling other people. At a rally in Mississippi on October 2 he mocked Dr Ford and was rightly criticized for this by Democrats and Republicans alike. Prior to that rally President Trump had been showing an unusual level of maturity with how he talked about the Kavanaugh hearings but I think we all knew it was only a matter of time before he started to again suffer from diarrhea of the mouth.
On October 4 the FBI delivered the findings of its investigation to the Senate. While the results of the investigation were not released to the public the news coming out of the Senate pointed to the likelihood that the Democrats’ chances of blocking Kavanaugh’s nomination were going from bad to worse. None of the quotes from senators that I saw that day indicated that the FBI had been able to corroborate Dr Ford’s allegations in any way. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, aka Cocaine Mitch, (seriously, that man has the best nickname of any senator ever) was aggressively pushing ahead with getting the procedural vote on Kavanaugh set for the next day. It would later be revealed that President Trump had questioned how committed Senator McConnell was on getting Kavanaugh pushed through the Senate and Cocaine Mitch replied back “I’m stronger than mule’s piss” on confirming Kavanaugh.
I have no idea how strong mule’s piss is, but it must be a powerful substance because Cocaine Mitch rallied the necessary votes on October 5. The Senate voted 51-49 to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to a final vote that would come the next day. The Democrats had continued to rail against Kavanaugh’s nomination prior to the vote but they could not stop it and only had themselves to blame for the situation. As you might remember, back in 2013 the Democrats had amended the Senate’s filibuster rules and opened the door to the possibility of Supreme Court nominees being confirmed with simple majority votes in the Senate. This “nuclear option” was triggered in 2017 during the Neil Gorsuch confirmation and after that Republicans (and Democrats) would be able to overcome potential filibusters with merely 51 votes instead of the usual 60. Cocaine Mitch had famously warned Democrats back in 2013 that tampering with the filibuster rules would one day come back to bite them and it had now bit them not once but twice.
After the vote Senator Susan Collins of Maine delivered an overly long but important speech on her plans to vote to confirm Kavanaugh in the final vote and her reasoning behind it. This truly was game over for the Democrats’ campaign to block Kavanaugh. On October 6 a 50-48 vote confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and a few days later he was officially sworn in. The Kavanaugh saga was over.
Or was it? We’ve been getting conflicting signals on whether or not the Kavanaugh saga will continue on and even as I write this post there remains a chance that we haven’t seen the end of this ordeal. On one hand Dr Ford’s lawyers have said they won’t ask lawmakers to purse further investigations into her case or try to impeach Kavanaugh. This is probably the right move for Dr Ford since this whole process has been a disaster for her and I can’t even imagine the stress she’s had to undergo over the preceding weeks. I’m guessing she’s going to need an extended leave of absence from her job to spend time recovering with her family. Some Democrats, on the other hand, appear willing to continue the investigation of Kavanaugh if they win back control of the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections. If this does happen I suspect the investigation will be similar to how the Republicans repeatedly voted to defund Obamacare in that it will be a huge waste of time.
Exactly how big of a loss the Kavanaugh saga was for Democrats remains to be seen. The full effects of Kavanaugh being on the Supreme Court will not be known for many years and there’s certainly the possibility that Kavanaugh will one day turn into the next incarnation of Anthony Kennedy. Republicans are fervently praying that doesn’t happen. In the near term, the Kavanaugh saga appears to have galvanized Republicans voters to get out and vote in the November midterms. The polls that I’m seeing at the moment still indicate that we’re going to get some sort of Blue Wave but it might not be as big as was predicted last month. While the Democrats look likely to snatch the House of Representatives the Republicans may yet hold on to the Senate. Then again, we saw how wrong the polls were in 2016 so maybe we’ll all be surprised again.
There also may be another consequence of the Kavanaugh saga in that the #MeToo movement may have been damaged. By propping up uncorroborated claims of sexual assault and gang rape and showing a willingness to destroy people even when there’s no evidence the Democrats may be making some Americans more skeptical of these sorts of claims in the future. A study I recently saw in The Economist seems to indicate this might be happening, and if so that’s a bit disheartening to me. For all of its flaws, I think the #MeToo movement has so far done more good than bad and has brought down many abusers whose positions would normally have made them untouchable.
I guess that now brings us to the question of what I believe about Dr Ford’s case. You’ve probably deduced most of my conclusions already but let me make them clear. I am willing to believe Dr Ford when she says she was sexually assaulted and I do not think she is knowingly lying when she says it was Kavanaugh who did it. However, I also believe that all the evidence we have points to the overwhelming likelihood that Dr Ford has misidentified her assailant and that Kavanaugh was not the one who sexually assaulted her. At the time that I am writing this post there is still zero substantive evidence that Kavanaugh committed this heinous act, or any of the other acts he has been accused of. He is not a choirboy—and he never claimed to be one—but we have no reason to believe he is a sex criminal.
In the end, both Dr Ford and Kavanaugh are victims. Dr Ford is the victim of a senator’s office that mishandling her case, of a malicious online harassment campaign, and of a Democratic Party that tossed her aside when she couldn’t give them what they wanted. Kavanaugh is a victim of baseless accusations of sexual misconduct, of a horrific smear campaign by journalists and others who were all too willing to throw away their integrity, and of a Republican Party that took forever to mount a strong defense of him. I’m hopeful that Kavanaugh, Dr Ford, and their families will one day recover from the hell they’ve had to endure. After watching the war of words in the Senate, on Youtube, and on social media, as well as the sights and sounds of the screaming, fanatical protestors who descended on Washington DC, I’m not so hopeful for the healing of our country. My friend Ben put it well in the tweet below.