There was a seeming furtiveness to the moment Brett Kavanaugh uttered the oath shortly after the confirmation vote on Saturday, a hasty sense of narrow escape. Kavanaugh was “promptly” sworn in, according to The New York Times, by Chief Justice Roberts and retired Justice Kennedy, during a private ceremony many marbled walls away from the protesters screaming their throats raw on the steps outside. When it was done, an accused perpetrator of sexual assault and confirmed serial liar had become the newest associate justice to the United States Supreme Court.
The president who nominated Brett Kavanaugh began his victory lap later that night in Topeka, Kansas, at a rally for Republican gubernatorial candidate and professional vote suppressor Kris Kobach, officially signing Kavanaugh’s judicial commission aboard Air Force One. Before yet another adoring crowd of supporters, Donald Trump gave voice to his vision of the future.
“You’re going to have other Supreme Court Justice places to be filled,” Trump told the delighted assemblage. “It could be three. It could even, before it could be a lot. And if you allow the wrong people to get into office, things could change. You don’t hand matches to an arsonist and you don’t give power to an angry leftwing mob, and that’s what they’ve become. The Democrats have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern.”
What a filthy piece of work this process was. Millions of sexual assault survivors saw their wounds simultaneously reopened and dismissed as the compelling testimony of Christine Blasey Ford was blown aside like so much dandelion fluff. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the horrified outrage and pain caused by Kavanaugh’s nomination as “a great political gift.”
The FBI “investigation” into Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh did not see fit to interview either Ford or Kavanaugh before submitting its report, willfully ignoring multiple other witnesses along the way. This disgraceful dereliction comes as no surprise to those who understand the FBI’s longstanding role as defender of the racist, sexist, timorous status quo. Still, it was galling to behold.
The speech delivered by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Friday afternoon was, in its own way, perhaps the worst moment of the entire ordeal. Collins, who fashions herself as a pro-choice Republican “moderate” with little evidence to support the label, embraced full-bore Trumpism like a rat seeking rescue in a rain barrel. “It wasn’t just a yes,” lamented the Boston Globe’s editorial board. “It was a hell yes.”
Collins’s remarks could have easily been drafted by Mitch McConnell himself, so deeply did she dive into McConnell’s oft-repeated colloquies on Kavanaugh’s virtues, temperament and status as victim. She showered praise on Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley shortly before he opined that there were no Republican women on the committee because they didn’t want to do the work. “The #MeToo movement is real,” she proclaimed in defense of her vote for an accused assaulter. It was almost overwhelming to behold.
A great many people will spend this day and the days to come feeling as hollowed out as the pumpkins dotting the doorsteps for Halloween, faces carved into frozen screams. Given the current right-wing makeup of the federal government, some terrible Federalist Society pocket Nazi was inevitably going to be confirmed after Kennedy stepped down … but the fact that it was this guy, when it didn’t have to be and only because McConnell had the power and the will to use it with such feckless abandon, will still be unacceptable when my little daughter has daughters of her own.
I am not going to try and blow any happy smoke over this. It is nothing more or less than a disaster for the people and a shouting victory for corporations, polluters, gun manufacturers, union busters, homophobes, sexists, anti-choice extremists, Trump’s legal standing and every misogynist who believes might makes right.
The calamity of Brett Kavanaugh is the latest, loudest battle in a larger war being fought between time and money. White Christian men under the banner of the Republican Party are fighting for the dominance of a shrinking faction in the face of a demographic tidal wave that is changing everything, but believe they can maintain their ascendancy with money in the guise of dark campaign financing and expensive disinformation outlets like Fox News.
For the moment they are correct, but moments pass. A fulcrum election looms, new Supreme Court vacancies are inevitable, and anything is possible in between. The Kavanaugh/Roberts/Alito/Gorsuch/Thomas majority is the fact of the present and will do unimaginable damage as it takes its star turn through history, but the only true constant is change. If you’re going to properly label the universe, author Frank Herbert reminds us, name it temporary.
Wresting power back from the right-wing forces that have taken control of the US government and courts will only be possible through mass participation, mass disobedience and the vote. There is, quite simply, no alternative.
In this moment, we must lay ourselves upon the gears and remember the words of progressive historian Howard Zinn: “It would be naïve to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.”
This, too, is fact.