The normally sleepy midterm elections were supposed to be a referendum on Trump and a blue-wave win for the Democrats. Then came Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate. Suddenly Republican voters were re-energized, as many saw the midterms as the final showdown over the Kavanaugh nomination.
In truth, the fight to tell the story of how Brett Kavanaugh got to the high court has just begun. The two colliding narratives that made his confirmation so divisive will be kept alive by our opposing political tribes, each hoping to win the debate over how to evaluate future Supreme Court decisions, particularly about abortion, in which Kavanaugh is now the deciding vote.
It’s a battle that imperils the Senate and the Supreme Court itself, unless one group in whose name it is being fought can come to the rescue: pro-lifers.
To review: The Democratic narrative accuses Republicans of being dishonest in responding to Christine Blasey Ford’s certainty that Kavanaugh was her assailant with condescending conspiracy theories. Republicans swallowed these outlandish proposals while ignoring how their nominee lies under oath.
In the liberals’ narrative, the Republicans, who uncritically supported Clarence Thomas, Roy Moore and Donald Trump, will never take violence against women seriously — perhaps because a central conservative goal requires controlling women’s reproductive choices.
The Republican narrative, on the other hand, maintains that the hearings were a political kangaroo court. Minutes after Kavanaugh was nominated, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer declared he would oppose the former White House lawyer “with everything I have.” Democrats illegally leaked confidential emails. They threw Ford under the bus by airing a confidential letter against her will.
While all women must be heard and respected, Republicans say, Democrats have turned #MeToo into a political weapon by claiming all women must be believed no matter what the evidence suggests. Many Republican women supported Kavanaugh’s nomination because Democrats don’t care about women; they care about political street-fighting and using the Supreme Court to enact their agenda.
If Democrats gain control of the House they will conduct sweeping investigations aimed at impeaching Kavanaugh. Senate Republicans, for their part, have promised to continue to investigate the leak of Ford’s letter and even the alleged intimidation of witnesses.
Going forward, it’s likely that the party that holds the Senate majority will simply refuse to confirm a SCOTUS nominee from a president of the opposing party. And as long as the Senate and the president are of the same party, the opposition will deploy the same tactics Kavanaugh faced, only worse. Indeed, U.S. senators themselves may become victims of leaked info and character attacks in order to discredit their votes.
What is at risk is the credibility of both the Senate and the Supreme Court. Justice Elena Kagan observed that the court’s power lies only in popular respect for the institution. If the nation sees the confirmation process as a nakedly partisan fight for power, it may eventually ignore the court altogether.
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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Charles C. Camosy