I’m going to risk frustrating some friends with the following comment:
I can see how a reasonable person might look at the the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh, feel sympathy for her, yet decide there’s not enough evidence on the scale to block his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
I wouldn’t vote for him. And I’m against confirming Supreme Court justices on a “tie goes to the runner” rule regarding sex crime accusations. Honesty compels me to differentiate what I can be certain of versus what I strongly suspect to be true. But if your vote comes down to “did he do it or not?” and you legitimately decide it’s not proven enough, well, I don’t love it. But I get it.
The problem, one that lingers after all of this is over? I see so few reasonable people backing Kavanaugh.
For many people on the right, the existence of Ford’s accusations — and the way Democrats in the Senate have handled them, or the media’s coverage of them — have become justification enough to rally to Kavanaugh’s support. You can see it in the columns of Bret Stephens and Rod Dreher, as well as polling suggesting that Republican enthusiasm for the midterm elections has suddenly shot through the roof. Understand: This has nothing to do with his qualifications for the court, or his innocence of the allegations, but instead represents the crystallization of the effyoucracy (sound it out) at its most pernicious.
What seems like a million years ago, I wrote about how we as a society would handle allegations like Ford’s if we were more oriented toward believing women yet wanting to ensure that no person accused of sex crimes was deprived of a fair process for judgment.
There were three points. Let me focus on the first for a second:
When a woman makes an accusation, it would mean pursuing all available lines of evidence to weigh the truth of her claims.
Let’s acknowledge that this claim, coming publicly 36 years after the fact, is tough to fairly adjudicate. But the public evidence is that all available lines of evidence were not pursued. Instead, we’ve increasingly been treated to warnings about perils of false accusations. About half the country seems ready to take this lesson from recent events: That men are the real victims here.
Instead, the president has mocked Ford. To cheers, laughter and applause from a Mississippi convention hall full of Republicans. Other Republicans have promoted the idea that Ford is too ugly to rape — and used a fake photo to “prove” it, too boot.
And finally, some of the same people who say the public evidence is insufficient to withhold office from Kavanaugh use that same evidence to assert that she is a liar. They want modesty in judging their man, but boldness in accusing the woman who accused him.
What is reasonable about all that? How does that balance our duties to listen to victims and to protect the rights of the accused? What would a fair-minded person say about all of this?
I try to be fair-minded, even acknowledging my biases. And I’m well aware of the Gospel admonition to pluck the log out of your own eye before pointing out the cinder in your neighbor’s. So I’ll also acknowledge that Republicans would probably, at this point, mention people like Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton and point out that the GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on this sort of thing.
My response to that is twofold:
• First, they’re absolutely right. Liberals shouldn’t get too snooty with the idea that Republicans uniquely protect sex offenders, because we have a not-too-distant history of trading feminist principles for political power. It’s ugly, and we need to deal with skeletons in our own closet.
• Second: Fuck that.
Pardon the language. But even if conservatives are entirely right about Kennedy and Clinton, let me let you in on a little ol’ concept: Two wrongs don’t make a right. The existence of a sordid history involving Democrats and women does not license Republicans to add to that. Women deserve better from all of us, regardless of political party or inclinations.
I think we can honestly say they’re not getting it.