|Kavanaugh - an anti-women, sexual molester?|
Trump's evangelical base loves nothing better than to see women placed firmly subordinate to men. Meanwhile, Trump and those like him see women as objects for male pleasure and gratification. Now, these two mindsets may have converged in the person of Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court who now seems to have been credibly accused of attempted rape years ago while a privileged rich boy student. The issue now becomes whether Senate Republicans will try to sweep Kavanaugh's possible misdeed under the rug as they have none with all of Trump's foul, misogynistic acts. If they do so, will women mobilize and punish Republican candidates everywhere for the obvious Republican contempt for women and their rights to control their own bodies as well as full equality under the law. It would be nice to think that Kavanaugh will be rejected, but given how horrid and toxic the Republican Party has become, this is far from a certainty. A piece in The Atlantic by a constitutional law professor looks at the confrontation. Here are excerpts:
Now Kavanaugh has been accused of an attempted sexual assault years ago. The accusations were at first anonymous, and were received and kept quiet by Senator Dianne Feinstein, but details began to leak, sparking confusion and outrage on both sides. On Sunday, the accuser came forward in an article in The Washington Post. Her name is Christine Blasey Ford; she is a psychologist and biostatistician affiliated with Stanford and Palo Alto Universities. According to the Post, she has now provided a detailed account, taken a polygraph test, and produced copies of a therapist’s notes from 2012. The notes recount her memory of a party at which, she says, a teenaged Kavanaugh and a friend locked her in a room and held her down (with, she said, Kavanaugh covering her mouth to stifle her screams) until she managed to escape.
Like most other Americans, I have no information about these charges except what I have read in the news. Like many other Americans, I find them profoundly disturbing. And like other Americans, I must rely on my elected representatives to determine their validity—before seating a nominee on the bench once occupied by Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Will they take this responsibility seriously? Or will the 11 male members of the committee’s Republican majority, in their discretion, decide the accusation does not “count”?
The gendered subtext of this moment is, not to put too fine a point on it, war—war to the knife—over the future of women’s autonomy in American society. Shall women control their own reproduction, their health care, their contraception, their legal protection at work against discrimination and harassment, or shall we move backward to the chimera of past American greatness, when the role of women was—supposedly for biological reasons—subordinate to that of men?
That theme became became apparent even before the 2016 election, when candidate Donald Trump promised to pick judges who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade. The candidate was by his own admission a serial sexual harasser. On live national television, he then stalked, insulted, and physically menaced his female opponent—and he said, in an unguarded moment, that in his post-Roe future, women who choose abortion will face “some form of punishment.”
In context, Trump promised to restore the old system of dominion—by lawmakers, husbands, pastors, institutions, and judges—over women’s reproduction. Arguably that platform propelled Trump into the White House: Many evangelical Christian voters chose to overlook Trump’s flagrant sexual immorality, his overt contempt for the basics of faith, because they believed he would end abortion forever.
The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia in 2017 did not change the landscape of choice; Gorsuch was replacing a resolute foe of reproductive rights, leaving the balance intact. But Trump’s promise came to the fore this year, with the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy’s single vote kept abortion rights alive for a quarter century. Trump’s chosen replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, had referred in a published opinion to “abortion on demand” and, referring only to “existing Supreme Court precedent,” refused even to cite the precedential cases by name.
Anyone with eyes could pick up his disdain for the constitutional guarantee of choice.
In lobbying Trump to nominate Kavanaugh, his defenders had initially insisted that he was reliably anti-choice. “On the vital issues of protecting religious liberty and enforcing restrictions on abortion,” one former clerk reassured fellow conservatives in National Review, “no court-of-appeals judge in the nation has a stronger, more consistent record than Judge Brett Kavanaugh.”
Once Kavanaugh was trotted out, however, the discourse became very odd indeed. . . . . His defenders smoothly pivoted to insisting that the judge’s mind was completely open on these very issues. Kavanaugh had no pre-conceived ideas, they claimed with near-straight faces, about precedents that guarantee a woman’s “liberty interest” to choose abortion before the viability of a fetus.
Republicans in the state legislatures have, in the past decade, rammed through statute after statute aimed at destroying reproductive choice and asserting the state’s authority over the pregnant female body. Medically useless ultrasound requirements; defunding of reproductive non-profits like Planned Parenthood; “health” measures designed to close down existing reproductive clinics; “fetal pain” bills that forbid abortion in earlier stages of pregnancy; restrictions on medication abortion; limits on the availability of contraception; even proposals to declare fetuses “persons” under the law—the target is every aspect of the intimate decision by a woman whether to bear children. Some of these attacks will clear the increasingly conservative appeals courts and land in the Supreme Court’s inbox.
Can anyone believe that his former clerk was deluded, and that Kavanaugh’s vote is genuinely in play? The claims of open-mindedness are not part of rational “advice and consent”; they are gaslighting that puts even Charles Boyer to shame.
It is mostly women, in stations high and low, who have pushed back against the tide of double-talk.
These hearings have not at any time been an exercise in “advice and consent.” Instead, they have been—as the women screaming in the background have tried to warn us—banana-republic-level pantomime, aimed at installing a hand-picked functionary in lifetime office.
But even so, the way in which chair Chuck Grassley and the 10 other male Republicans on the committee handle Ford’s accusation will tell us a good deal about them and about the state of the gender battlefield. Will these men dismiss the allegation because it was too long ago? Will they attack the accuser and seek to shame her over hidden details of her life? Will they argue there is “only” one claim, and one is not enough?
In the year of #MeToo, will male authorities claim their traditional power to silence female dissent? Or will they—at last—take their offices seriously and find some way, fair to Kavanaugh and to Ford, to get at the truth?
I left the Republican Party years ago because I came to believe that one could not be a decent, moral person and support a party whose agenda was to strip others of their right to equality under the law. That believe has increased ten fold in the age of Trump and the GOP's now complete moral bankruptcy.