Friday, September 21, 2018

The Kavanaugh Fight Is the Republican Party's Death Rattle

The confirmation of Clarence Thomas provides the closest parallel.  The demeaning treatment of Anita Hill by a condescending bunch of misogynists on the Judiciary Committee whose failure to fairly and meaningfully consider that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment and lied about it was a galvanizing moment in our history.  It brought issues about how women were treated in the work place into the public discourse.  It gave other women the space to talk about their own experiences.  And it spurred women to run for office and in many cases to win seats in both the Senate and the House.

But Clarence Thomas was confirmed (52-48).  And while those of us who believed Anita Hill then or do so now will always look at Thomas as someone who does not deserve to sit on the high court, there he sits.  He doesn't say much when he's on the bench but for over 25 years he has provided an ironclad conservative vote.

The integrity of the Supreme Court was supposed to take a hit after the Thomas confirmation, or after the travesty of Bush v. Gore, or Citizens United, or after Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat from Democrats by refusing to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland.  And political pundits are now speculating that confirming Brett Kavanaugh without the disclosure of his substantial paper trial or meaningfully resolution of questions about his actions while in the Bush Administration or, more recently, sexual assault allegations, will be a blow to the Court's credibility. 

But the Court has proven to be impervious to attacks on its reputation.  As designed, the Supreme Court, even at it has become more partisan, remains insulated from partisan attacks.  The justices have lifetime appointments, and their legacies are generally not sorted out until long after they have left the bench.  In real time, criticism no matter how harsh or justified can't really touch them.  So if and when Brett Kavanaugh -- or a right wing doppleganger -- is confirmed it won't matter how he (or she) got there. Like Clarence Thomas, he (or she) will be there for life.  And with Thomas, Gorsuch (the beneficiary of the Garland theft) and Bush II picks Alito and Roberts, the new justice will anchor a right wing majority that will transform the country's legal landscape.

And that's the end game for conservatives.  They don't care that the president is an amoral, ignorant monster as long as he nominates judges and justices who will please Evangelical Christians, the Koch Brothers and Wall Street. They probably don't really care whether they keep the House or even the Senate in the midterms if it means cementing a right wing majority on the Court.

They would see that as a pyrrhic victory for Democrats.  They understand that the country's evolving demographics are not on their side and that their base of non-college educated white men is dwindling.  But they don't need a majority if they control the courts.  They can come back and win elections with court-approved unregulated campaign funds, gerrymandering and voter suppression.  And they know that even if the Democrats control Congress, the courts as in the days of yore, can strike down progressive legislation. 

But what the Republicans are not counting on is the magnitude of the blowback.  As happened after the Thomas hearings, the despicable treatment of Kavanaugh's accuser by hamfisted Senate Republicans will further energize and empower current generations of women and non-deplorable men.

One would think that Trump's misogyny and history of sexual misconduct, GOP support for other sexual predators, and their War on Women, from attempting to defund Planned Parenthood to voting against renewing the Violence Against Women Act, would be enough.  But their uncompromising support of Kavanaugh and trashing of Christine Blasey Ford, his accuser, should be the last straw.  If Kavanugh is confirmed despite credible and corroborated evidence that he sexually assaulted a 15-year old girl -- and then lied about it -- the level of outrage should propel Democrats to victory this November.

But that's not all.  Kavanaugh's confirmation, as well as the chipping away of Roe v. Wade and other disastrous court decisions that Kavanaugh's confirmation ensures, will continue to resonate in 2020 when Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and others will have potent arguments for why women need to lead this country in the White House as well as in state and federal legislatures. 

In 2020, Clarence Thomas will be 72.  He will not be on the Court forever.  When he goes, the Democrats will be in power and replace him, resulting in a liberal majority on the Court for the first time since the Warren Court was dismantled during the Nixon Administration.  The old white men of the Republican Party will eventually be gone too -- replaced by a progressive majority that truly represents the diversity of the country.

That's our end game.


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