Look, there isn’t any silver lining here. The world is less than we deserve. But there is good happening today, too, and without dismissing any of the bad, here is some of it:
Republicans care deeply–not about women as people but about women as symbols of their own loss of power. They were not ignoring Ford’s testimony. They understand it to be a terrifying threat: a wealthy white woman challenging a system that protects rich white men. Her race and class matter here tremendously. Remember that most white women and most rich women voted for Trump. Rich white women typically try to glum on to the power that white men promise them. (They are seldom rewarded. They are usually treated like Renate Dolphin: used, then mocked, then used again.) Ford didn’t do that. She betrayed the world of elites by revealing the violence and entitlement that intrinsic to it. (Brett Kavanaugh revealed it, too–without any sense of shame.)
- Above, American hero Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. When a rich white woman testifies to the violence of rich white men, you are watching a crack form in our intersecting systems of oppression.
Intersectionality is working. It will take a rich white woman to bring down rich white men. And the rage you see from men now is their recognition that it endangers them–not just the rich ones but all the ones who think they deserve to be.
Republicans’ efforts to ram this through, despite calls from Mormon and Catholic organizations and the American Bar Association and a flood of phone calls they face each day from constituents, tells us that they are afraid. They are desperate because they suspect that November’s midterm elections will be the end of their careers and the end of their dominance in Congress.
Public outrage is working. That is why the Kavanaugh nomination is going forward–because Republicans have to act quickly, before it wears them down.
But they are scared of something bigger: Few Americans want the world they promise. Voters consistently reject their ideas. They have not been able to elect a non-incumbent president with a majority of votes since 1988. That is 30 years. Americans reject the cynical vision of America that conservative Republicans offer.
Because we don’t want what they offer, the only way that they can win anything is by thwarting democracy and undermining our democratic institutions. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, lies, attacking journalists–these are all they have. People who cheat are ones who can’t win fairly.
These anti-democratic tactics are all they have because democracy works. Not always and not perfectly, and God, we need to live up to our promise better, but what Republicans are so afraid of is that we are on the verge of making our democracy work better. And then they have nothing, because We the People don’t want their America.
You’ve heard the expression that a dying mule kicks the hardest. This isn’t always true. We experienced, after the Civil War, a time of hope about racial justice: voters from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia elected black politicians to federal office, and Louisiana saw the first black governor in the US serve in office (not elected, and only for six weeks during an election dispute). Then, the “mule” of Reconstruction and Redemption kicked, but that wasn’t a sign of the end of white supremacy. Instead, we lost 78 years–from the end of Reconstruction to the end of legal segregation–of democracy’s potential. We’ve have not recovered it yet.
So we’ve been here before–white male patriarchy screaming like a dry drunk–and we’ve lost. But Brett Kavanaugh is screaming and Trump is raging and Orrin Hatch is belittling and Chuck Grassley is interrupting because they all recognize the stakes: the America they want isn’t one the rest of us want, and they have no democratic way to achieve it. They’re like scared men facing a bear attack: they have to blow themselves up bigger and louder because they know they’re not stronger. Sometimes it works, but mostly the bear wins.
What comes next will only be uglier: we’re casting out demons here. Democracy isn’t guaranteed. But the attack on it is a sign that its opponents are scared. And their fear is a measure of the strength of those fighting for us to live up to America’s best promises.