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Random Thoughts on Ford-Kavanaugh

I’m Fearful About the Future of our Country.

The testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh was supposed to focus on one thing: if Judge Kavanaugh committed attempted rape on a summer’s evening in 1982. Maybe there’s no way that the malestorm that took place on September 27 could be avoided. But Thursday morning and afternoon was really a story about how fractious and polarizing is American politics. It’s a story about power; how one party wants it and how another party doesn’t want to give it up.

None of that means that no one had any concerns about Dr. Ford’s anguish; but I feel that both sides were not as interested in her claim as they were about reaching an objective: blocking Kavanaugh and running down the clock for the Dems and getting a strong conservative block for decades for the GOP. This, is what I think mattered.

But there are other musings I have about this event.

Violence Against Women is a bigger problem than you think. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that a lot of women (and some men) are carrying a burden of some kind of sexual harrassment, sexual assault or rape. I’ve heard friends and family recount those experiences. Like Dr. Ford, a lot of women hold these secrets in the hearts for years, decades, because they were too ashamed or too afraid to share. They are haunted- traumatized by those memories and can remember things about the event; that unwanted touch, the smell of the attackers breath, or in Dr. Ford’s case, the laughter of the two boys who tried to rape her. So, when a woman shares a story like this, take her seriously and say a prayer for her because she has carried a heavy weight for a long time.

#BelieveAllWomen is not a good standard. While it is not common, women have lied about sexual assault. That should not mean that we discount any allegation, but that we try as hard as we can to verify the accusations. From the Duke LaCrosse accusations to white women who lied about being raped by black men, it can happen. So, I don’t say #BelieveAllWomen, but I do say #ListentoAllWomen. We need to listen to their pain and anger, and we need to find ways to investigate charges of assault that honor women and ensure the accused has their day in court. We can’t and should not ignore the women, but we also have to ensure the accused is not railroaded either. Lives can be damaged if this is not handled with care.

Jeff Flake save the Republicans from themselves. GOP Senator Jeff Flake stopped the speeding training to get Kavanaugh confirmed by asking and getting a one-week delay in order for the FBI to investigate. This was denounced by many on the right, but it is the right move. The rush to approve Kavanaugh without any kind of thorough investigation was dangerous because it would leave the allegations as an open wound. Kavanaugh would have a cloud over his head for as long as he served on the court. If nothing is found, then he can be nominated without those questions on the minds of many. Will it cause the left to not attack Kavanaugh? No. They will not like him no matter what. That leads to the next thought…

Is it the end of bipartisanship? Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the GOP said this at his inaugural in 1861: “ We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln said this on the eve of the Civil War. During his Presidency, as much as he tried to destroy the Confederacy, he also wanted those who left the Union to be seen as fellow Americans not simply enemies. I believe his willingness to heal the Union kept the America whole.

But we seem to be losing that sense of seeing those who disagree with us as part of America. Senator Flake’s willingness to postpone the vote on Kavanaugh is being view by many as a traitor to the conservative cause. Talk show host Jesse Kelly isn’t that interested in having politicians cross the isle and work together. For Kelly, it is all out war and the Democrats are our enemy:

Desiring civility is a fine thing, but it cannot replace one’s desire for liberty. America is only America because America is about freedom — freedom from government interference in our lives. The entire purpose of the modern Democratic Party is to destroy that freedom and expand government. They must be defeated. There is no reasoning with people whose only goal is your complete submission.

There is something dangerous in seeing someone from another political party as not simply being wrong or having a differing view of government, but as some threat to all that is good in society. You can’t really have a functioning democracy if you view those who have different views as if they were an invading army. In fact this isn’t the talk of a democracy, it’s the talk of war.

But that’s the prevailing view among the right that views all Democrats as evil and sees the opposition in apocalyptic terms. It’s why Flake is being vilified by so many people because he dared to work with someone from the opposing party. That’s not good for the political health of our country.

Folks like Flake, Coons as well as the late John McCain were people who cared about process and institutions. These people from both parties cared about the reputation of institutions and believe that process checks political ambition and win at all costs. But as we have less and less of those people, we have people who see politics in everything and is willing to mow down the few processes that keep us from descending into chaos. The loss of the filibuster, the lack of cooperation on both sides of the Senate judiciary committee, keeping Scalia’s seat open until an opportune time and the supposed withholding of the allegation from Dr. Ford until after the initial hearings are all violations of some sort of process. What will happen when Flake leaves and there are even less institutionalists in the Senate and elsewhere. Expect open political warfare.

Is this all about Kavanaugh? The amount of vitrol from the left could be geared on towards Kavanaugh, but let’s say he withdraws and President Trump puts forward Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Will she be deemed acceptable or will we see the same antics? Would those hearings be less emotionally charged? I have this bad feeling that no matter who is chosen, the left will oppose it. I think this is about trying to block the other side from ever choosing a justice at least January 2021. It’s also about the radicalizing the American left and the collapse of the centrist liberal. But then, Trump and conservatives in Washington are so all in for Kavanaugh that they are willing to keep the Court at 8 members especially if the Senate goes Democratic in November. It’s also about the Supreme Court justice that never was…

Merrick Garland. We all remember Garland, a judge on the DC Court of Appeals who was nominated by President Obama in 2016 replacing Justice Antonin Scalia who died in February 2016. We also remember that Garland never got a hearing. Mitch McConnell decided to ignore the President’s choice making a gamble that a Republican would win in November and they could replace Scalia with another conservative. That happened with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, but since Kavanaugh’s appointment will cement a conservative majority, Democrats are waving the bloody shirt of Judge Garland. They are justified in their anger. There was nothing that said McConnell had to meet with Garland or hold hearings, but it was a common courtesy to do so. If they didn’t like Garland he could be voted down. Two of Nixon’s nominees were rejected by the Senate. But McConnell decided this norm could be broken in order to get what he wanted, a conservative justice to replace a conservative justice. McConnell seemed to not give much thought to is how Democrats would react. There is a lot of anger on the right about the antics of the left in regards to Kavanaugh, but there is some hypocrisy in that anger because of what happened to Garland. When one norm is broken, other norms will fall as well. Actions have consequences. Speaking of anger…

What was up with Judge Kavanaugh? When it was Kavanaugh’s turn to come before the committee after Dr. Ford, he came guns blazing. The emotions he showed we not surprising, given the hell he and his family had gone through. But the opening statement was incredibly partisan. Among the many accusations, Kavanaugh went after the Democrats for trying to sink his nomination as revenge for the 2016 election. We remember how Clarence Thomas addressed the Senate Judiciary committee in 1991, when he described what was happening to him as a “high tech lynching.” But his response was measured and contained. Thomas never made it personal, which is what Kavanaugh did. As many have noticed his response was…Trumpian. That makes me wonder…was his outburst the anger of a man who feels unfairly treated or is this being done to satisfy one man…the President? Because the statement was pure Trump, based on grievances and resentments instead of higher values. Some people think losing his cool is what shows his judicial temperment, but blowing your top about something like this is not the thing that should bother people. What is unnerving is how it was delivered- partisan and full of sneering contempt, again all to please one man- President Trump. Aping the President in temperment is a way of pleasing the President and we are all aware of the ways this president demands loyalty from his underlings. Kavanaugh’s speech was a way to show he was Trump’s man. I’m less concerned that he got angry than I am about how he used his speech to curry favor to Trump. If we want our justices to at least have the appearance of being independent, that speech disqualifies Kavanaugh full stop.

The Democrat’s actions during the process. The Democrats have not covered themselves in glory during the hearings. They came out swinging on day 1 and haven’t stopped. Even before the sexual assault allegations, It is mind-boggling that the ranking member of the Senate Judicary committee, Diane Feinstein held this allegation for weeks and then let it come out at the 11th hour. Why wasn’t this released in time for Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing? It’s hard to not see a lot of how this was handled as trying to play dirty.

Kavanaugh’s tarnished reputation. When Kavanaugh was introduced, he was presented as someone who coached his daughter’s basketball team, hired a fair amount of women to clerk for him and had a number of liberals who believed he was a good justice. Now, he is viewed not only as a rapist, but as an entitled white male. His tirade, also known as a testimony, didn’t help him not appear entitled, but it is also understandable- his reputation has been destroyed. Even if he becomes a justice, women won’t want to clerk for him and he won’t be coaching girls’ basketball. He is now looked at as a potential threat. His attacks against Democrats doesn’t make him look good, but it also might make him predisposed to be even more conservative than he was. I know some will say that he is rapist and that he deserves to have his reputation destroyed, but we don’t know that. I think he should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

The final verdict. I tend to believe that both sides are telling the truth at least how the remember it. I think Dr. Ford’s memories might be sketchy, but they seemed spot on when it came to the actually moment in question, so even with no coorberating evidence, I think she is telling the truth. When it comes to Kavanaugh I think he believes he didn’t do it. But I think what’s closer to the truth is that he can’t remember doing something like this. I think he might have assaulted Dr. Ford, but has no memory of the event because this all took place when he blacked out. I think he knows that he has blacked out back in those days and he is afraid to really dig deeper. If Kavanaugh would have said he had no memory of the event, then that might be basically saying the his trying to rape a teenage girl was in the realm of possibility. That would be the end of his nomination. So he said that he didn’t do it, instead saying he is innocent and not digging much further.

Listen, I do think all the positive things that have been said about him concerning women are true. I don’t think he is the evil misogynist that many on the left think he is. A lot can change between what he was like in high school and college to what he is in his early 50s.

The question is, how do you handle the past? If Kavanaugh even entertained the possibility that it might have happened and was honest about it AND talked about how he’s changed from those days, he probably would have not been nominated. Should we be held to account for something done 35 years ago, when the person was still a minor? I don’t know. Attempted rape is not nothing. If we say it doesn’t matter then what are we saying about sexual violence against women? Are we going down a road where we will start looking at a nominee’s yearbooks for anything that might seem out of the ordinary? Does a nominee have to be incredibly perfect to serve?

At the end of the day, I would pull the nomination. I have no doubt Kavanaugh is talented and is a good family man. But there is too much doubt about the past and his actions during the second set of hearings that makes me think people will trust his judgement. I doubt the Trump and the Senate GOP will pull it in favor someone else, but I think for the health of our republic Kavanaugh needs to withdraw and to allow someone else to step up.

Written by

A middle-aged pastor living in Minneapolis. I write about politics, religion, sexuality, and autism. https://www.dennislsanders.net/

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