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Kavanaugh won, decency lost

Rally to protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court

A rally at Halifax Mall in Raleigh, NC Thursday, October 4, 2018, was held to protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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A rally at Halifax Mall in Raleigh, NC Thursday, October 4, 2018, was held to protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There is now only a lonely sign left on the UNC law school’s student speech board. “We support Dr. Ford,” it reads. Such a devastating loss.

The elevation of Brett Kavanaugh is potent and long-lived judicial wound because it likely ensures the dominance of an activist, right-wing Supreme Court for decades. As one conservative scholar summarized: “It is the capstone of a long project to fundamentally change the judicial branch of government on abortion, affirmative action, gun rights and religious freedom.”

Kavanaugh lied repeatedly in matters small and large. He’s been schooled his entire professional life on the necessity of dumping Roe. It is the central tenet of his declared jurisprudential creed. It’ll soon be accomplished. Huge percentages of white women have voted for decades to protect tax cuts instead of their reproductive freedoms. Now they’ll see if the bargain was worth it.

And then there’s the deep, acute and lasting blow to the American character. We chose the villains over the heroine, or heroines. Or we had the choice made for us, in our names. What it means to be an American is notably diminished. The haughty and bullying stain won’t readily disappear.

From the moment she sat down, declaring she was there “not because she wanted to be” but out of a “sense of civic duty,” Dr. Christine Blasey Ford outclassed her Senate interrogators and the hapless Arizona prosecutor brought in to cover for the elderly white males. Admitting she was “terrified,” Ford frankly detailed Kavanaugh’s alleged drunken assault – shoving her into a room, covering her mouth, ripping her clothes off, trying to rape her.

She was so straightforward and courageous that she seemed out of place in the Senate hearing room. Describing the justice’s “uproarious laughter” and announcing her “one hundred percent certainty,” she seemed like the only authentic human on the premises. The committee had seen nothing equivalent since Anita Hill testified in 1991.

I know it’s controversial to say, but I’m convinced every person who heard Ford testify knew, without a shade of doubt, she was telling the truth. That includes, perhaps especially, the unhinged, red-faced, finger-wagging Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. It’s time for him to go home.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, sputtered, attacked and bore false witness. He lashed out like a teenage prep schooler. Or someone instructed to emulate Donald Trump. He taunted his interrogators, especially the women. He repeatedly reminded us he was first in his class — as if that justified the aggression. He’s got no business being on the U.S. Supreme Court, or any other tribunal.

Trump himself was so astonished by Ford’s selfless bravery that he initially conceded she was “a very compelling and very credible witness” reflecting a surpassing “moment in the history of our country.” Within hours, though, he returned to form – mocking the attempted rape victim, saying it was all a made up hoax, constructed by “really evil people.” He explained he had to attack Ford “to level the playing field.” Kavanaugh was willing to lie, he seemed to suggest, but he wasn’t that good at it. So sayeth the master.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reported he couldn’t possibly be prouder of the Senate Republican conference. Sen. Susan Collins, perhaps most disgusting of all, effectively declared that Ford was either delusional or insane. I had never doubted Collins would vote for Kavanaugh. But the whole nation could wish she hadn’t bothered to explain herself.

There is something coldly telling in contemplating Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas huddling together to decide the future of women’s rights in the United States of America. This is the project Republicans have struggled so long, and so mightily, to deliver. Elections have consequences. So does human decency.

Gene Nichol is the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at UNC-Chapel Hill.