After Kavanaugh’s Destruction, Who Is Safe?
David Brooks is back from book leave today, and he’s disgusted by the Kavanaugh debacle, which he calls “a complete national disgrace.” Excerpts:
What we saw in these hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life. At the heart of the hearings were two dueling narratives, one from Christine Blasey Ford and one from Brett Kavanaugh. These narratives were about what did or did not happen at a party 36 years ago. There was nothing particularly ideological about the narratives, nothing that touched on capitalism, immigration or any of the other great disputes of national life.
These hearings were also a devastating blow to intellectual humility. At the heart of this case is a mystery: What happened at that party 36 years ago? There is no corroborating evidence either way. So the crucial questions are: How do we sit with this uncertainty? How do we weigh the two contradictory testimonies? How do we measure these testimonies when all of cognitive science tells us that human beings are really bad at spotting falsehood? Should a person’s adult life be defined by something he did in high school?
Commentators and others may have acknowledged uncertainty on these questions for about 2.5 seconds, but then they took sides. If they couldn’t take sides based on the original evidence, they found new reasons to confirm their previous positions. Kavanaugh is too angry and dishonest. He drank beer and threw ice while in college. With tribal warfare all around, uncertainty is the one state you are not permitted to be in.
This is where I think the fault is entirely with the activist Left. Heaven knows the partisan Right is capable of same, and often guilty, but in the Kavanaugh case — as Brooks’s examples show — the recklessness was almost entirely on the part of the Left. In my own case, this is what made me come down hard for Kavanaugh (absent any credible discovery of serious sexual misconduct): that he was clearly being railroaded by liberal politicians and media, in a way that is frankly McCarthyite. Except this time, instead of Reds, we have White Male Conservatives. People like me, and my friends and family. The last two weeks have brought forth from the Left a concerted attempt not to get to the truth about what happened 36 years ago, and how to deliberate responsibly in the face of uncertainty, but rather to brutalize and destroy a man and all those of his despised cultural and ideological class.
Brooks writes, trying to be even-handed:
This past month we’ve seen thousands of people convinced that they know how Kavanaugh behaved because they know how “privileged” people behave. We’ve seen thousands of people lining up behind Kavanaugh because they know that there’s this vicious thing called “the Left,” which hates them.
But — and I ask this honestly — what other conclusion is there to be drawn when so much of the opposition to Kavanaugh has been stated in explicitly racist, sexist terms? The “privilege” that the Left uses to abominate Kavanaugh is, in their worldview, a function of his race and his sex. I don’t know Brett Kavanaugh and I had no interest in his nomination, but watching what progressive leaders in politics, law, and media have done to him, in terms of turning him into a demon and denying him the presumption of innocence, has been a constant drumbeat of: if they’ll do it to him, they’ll do it to you and your sons, because you are members of the hated class.
If my sons or my daughter are ever the victim of sexual assault, or are ever accused of sexual assault, I want them, their alleged assailant, or their accuser, to have due process. This is one of the most precious aspects of our system of law. Human perception and memory is faulty, and under certain conditions, even innocent people will formally admit their guilt. (The Innocence Project has documented many false confessions.) Our system is not perfect, but it’s the best we have, and we’re fools if we throw it away.
I can’t tell this story often enough: In my rural Southern town, back in the 1940s, a black man and a white woman were discovered in sexual congress. The woman accused him of rape. The sheriff and two deputies hunted the black man down through the woods, captured him, dragged him back to the jailhouse, and lynched him. Days later, the white accuser broke down under the weight of her conscience. She confessed that the black man had been her lover. She had accused him of rape to save her own reputation in that white supremacist culture.
There was never any chance that that black man would have had the opportunity to defend himself in court. There was never any chance that he would be considered innocent until proven guilty. Everybody (that is, all whites, who held all the power) knew that black men seethed with lust for white women. Everybody knew that no white woman could possibly find black men sexually desirable. In a case like this one, there’s no need for a fair trial; you believe the woman. If you don’t believe the woman, and exact swift and sure punishment for her assailant, then it will be open season for black men to rape white women. That was what the power-holders in that time and place believed.
When the woman finally told the truth, no one had to answer for that murder. She and her family quietly moved away from the town, and were never heard from again. Everything returned to normal. An innocent black man was killed by the sheriff and two deputies, solely on the word of a white woman who told a lie that confirmed all the white supremacist society’s own prejudices. But to have attempted to hold those white murderers accountable for their deed would have brought the entire cultural and legal system of white supremacy into question. It was thought better than an innocent man should die than that the entire system should be revealed as corrupt. Protecting the system was more important than justice.
The only reason I know about this is that back in the 1990s, one of the deputies who was there that night confessed to his son what he had done. The old man had carried the weight of his guilt for 50 years. The son was a friend of mine, and shared the confession with me because he was deeply disturbed by this knowledge. He had not thought his father capable of such a deed. It stunned me too. I knew that old man as a kindly pillar of the community. Which he was. But he was also a murderer, and he was a murderer because the ideology of his community told him that the black man could not possibly be innocent, and the white woman could not possibly be lying.
Brett Kavanaugh is not being lynched, of course. But his character is being assassinated, and his Supreme Court nomination may be destroyed on the basis of a 36-year-old accusation that cannot be reasonably established as true. And this is considered necessary by an activist Left that believes the ends justifies any means necessary to achieve them.
By all indications, Brett Kavanaugh is about to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, where he will become part of a five-justice conservative bloc that will swiftly roll back decades of progressive jurisprudence. His confirmation will be a major victory for the Republican Party and its leader, Donald Trump, who will soon succeed in entrenching GOP control over the court for at least a generation. But as soon as Kavanaugh takes the oath, he will plunge the Supreme Court into a legitimacy crisis that could weaken its power over the long term. This crisis will become particularly acute if Democrats retake Congress and the presidency but find their reforms stymied by a reactionary judiciary. The broad consensus over the court’s authority to interpret the Constitution will crumble. If that all comes to pass, Kavanaugh’s appointment may come to be seen as a Pyrrhic victory not just for Trump but for the entire conservative movement.
The reader who sent me that adds:
Think about that. Until now there was “broad consensus over the court’s authority.” He said that. I didn’t. And this existed despite “decades of progressive jurisprudence.” So for decades, conservatives lost and lost and lost and lost, but still confirmed the legitimacy of the system. But as soon as those losses BEGIN to be rolled back, it’s time for a war on the judiciary.
This is who we are playing against here, Rod . Being professional and winsome and all the rest was a fool’s game.
Ermagerd! The court is ditching laws enacted by Congress!
Yeah. No sh*t. Tell it to gay marriage.
Conservative writer and broadcaster Erick Erickson was one of the original Never Trumpers. When he came out against Trump in 2016, he lost two-thirds of his income. He sacrificed for his principles. But events of the past two weeks have pushed him to declare that he will vote for Trump’s re-election in 2020. Here’s why:
Frankly, Trump does not have the character or strong Christian faith I prefer in a President. But he is positively angelic compared to his political opponents and the press. Between Trump and his opposition, I would rather vote for him, despite his flaws, than his opponents who want a flawless progressive utopia. Trump is neither an ambassador for my values nor the articulate champion of my principles I would prefer. But he is a safe harbor in a progressive storm that seeks to both destroy my values and upend our constitutional republic.
Progressives believe Trump is an authoritarian tyranny barely constrained by the rule of law. With a straight face, these same progressives argue the accusations against Kavanaugh are proof of his guilt, he should not be presumed innocent, a lack of witnesses is confirmation he did what they claim, all women must be believed except the ones who defend Kavanaugh, and any dissent is just white male privilege. Progressives may claim President Trump is Caesar at the edge of the Rubicon, but they have embraced the bastard love child of Joseph Stalin and Franz Kafka and enlisted the American political press to smear, defame, and attack anyone who stands in their way.
There is much in this present political age about which I am uncertain. But there is one thing about which I am absolutely certain. President Trump is not my enemy and too many progressives view me as theirs.
A senior Facebook executive, its chief Washington lobbyist, has been close friends with Brett Kavanaugh for over 20 years. He was present at Kavanaugh’s hearing in a personal capacity, to show support by his presence for his old friend. He said not one word about the nomination, only sat with Kavanaugh’s friends and family in the audience. Now he is being excoriated from within Facebook for that, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said publicly that it was a “mistake” for him to be there. I understand this morning that Kaplan may be fired over the incident.
Fired for holding an opinion different from the opinion of many employees. Fired for sitting behind his old friend in a Senate hearing. “Are you now, or have you ever been, a friend of Brett Kavanaugh?” Then let’s blacklist you, and make sure you can’t work.
Facebook is not a dinky-butt muffin shop in Portlandia. It’s one of the most powerful global corporations. Today Facebook is having a town hall meeting where Mark Zuckerberg will address this issue. Watch what he does. If the Social Justice Warrior mob gets away with this at Facebook, it will set a terrible precedent.
Whatever happens, be aware: this is what woke progressives want for our country and its institutions. I hate the idea of tribalism too, but at what point does one have to fall in with the tribe, out of sheer self-protection? Brett Kavanaugh, from what I can tell, is a by-the-book pinstriped Washington Republican. If the liberal mob can turn him into History’s Greatest Monster on the basis of unsupported allegations from his teenage years, and on the basis of his race and gender, then who is safe?