Kavanaugh Fight & Declining Institutions
I find it hard to imagine that a single conservative mind will be changed by this. In fact, it’s likely to make us even more determined to back Kavanaugh. It’s almost touching, the earnestness with which the Times headline writer seems to believe that accumulating signatures from law professors actually matters. “Well, I was on Judge Kavanaugh’s side, but now that over 1,700 law professors — and counting! — have signed a statement in The New York Times against him, I’m going to have to reconsider.”
In fact, for a lot of us — including me — in the absence of further concrete information about his alleged sexual assault of Dr. Ford, the law-professor pile-on makes me all the more determined to see Kavanaugh confirmed, to defy them all.
Last Thursday, after his remarkable statement at the Kavanaugh hearing, I said, for the first time in my life, “Lindsey Graham speaks for me.” Today I say for the first time I can recall, “Bret Stephens speaks for me.” In his must-read NYT column, Stephens says:
For the first time since Donald Trump entered the political fray, I find myself grateful that he’s in it. I’m reluctant to admit it and astonished to say it, especially since the president mocked Christine Blasey Ford in his ugly and gratuitous way at a rally on Tuesday. Perhaps it’s worth unpacking this admission for those who might be equally astonished to read it.
I’m grateful because Trump has not backed down in the face of the slipperiness, hypocrisy and dangerous standard-setting deployed by opponents of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m grateful because ferocious and even crass obstinacy has its uses in life, and never more so than in the face of sly moral bullying. I’m grateful because he’s a big fat hammer fending off a razor-sharp dagger.
A few moments have crystallized my view over the past few days.
He then lists eight moments of grotesque, character-assassinating injustice, that pushed him — a confirmed Never Trumper — to this view. I share them all. This one stands out:
Fifth moment: Reading about a 1985 bar fight at Yale — a story that involved Kavanaugh throwing ice, resulted in no charges against him, and should never have been reported. Or reading a 1983 handwritten letter by Kavanaugh, in which he says of his gang of friends that “we’re loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us” — adolescent boasting now being treated as if it is a crucial piece of incriminating evidence. Or hearing from Yale classmates who claim to have seen Kavanaugh drunk, which somehow is supposed to show that he’s a demonstrable perjurer and possible sex offender.
Will a full-bore investigation of adolescent behavior now become a standard part of the “job interview” for all senior office holders? I’m for it — provided we can start with your adolescent behavior, as it relates to your next job.
We will learn soon enough what, if anything, the F.B.I. has gleaned from its investigation of Kavanaugh. If the Bureau finds persuasive evidence of Blasey’s charge, the judge will have to step down and answer for it. Until then, I’ll admit to feeling grateful that, in Trump, at least one big bully was willing to stand up to others.
As Stephens avers, the behavior of the Democrats in Congress and other institutions of the liberal establishment — including the media, and yes, law professors — has been brutally clarifying. It has demonstrated that there are no limits to political destruction, and that the left will unashamedly bring race and gender into the fight, even if it has nothing to do with the issues.
Even Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezenski, who are on record opposing the Kavanaugh nomination, agree that the media coverage has been hysterically biased:
Again: in the absence of credible and conclusive evidence that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted someone, I believe that he must be confirmed, because the Senate Democrats and the liberal establishment cannot be allowed to torpedo a nomination on such grounds.
Here’s what concerns me, though. Yesterday, talking in The Spectator about the fantastic hoax in which three professors pranked Grievance Studies academic journals into publishing nonsense papers, Douglas Murray had a good laugh, but said it’s also “rather worrying.” Excerpt:
In order for a society to remain even vaguely healthy it has to have healthy institutions. And for institutions to be healthy they need to be justly respected – not respected because they ‘demand’ respect or play-act at earning respect.
When institutions – like academic institutions and academic journals – become corrupted by ideologues of any political stripe, people can be left able to respect almost nothing and believe almost anything. Anyone need only glance at numerous fields of ‘academic studies’ today (gender ‘studies’, queer ‘studies’ and more) to realise that much of the humanities, and nearly all of the social sciences have become pulpits for frauds and megaphones for radical inadequates.
True. What happens when ideologues capture mass media and law schools? We see it now. Don’t misunderstand: I believe there are credible reasons to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. But these last-minute allegations aren’t among them, and the way many on the left have embraced racist and sexist language to demean Kavanaugh is revolting. But it’s revolting in a way that is quite familiar to conservatives who follow the mainstream media closely, and who observe academic politics.
Last year, Bill Bishop wrote in the Washington Post a piece observing that Americans’ confidence in their institutions has plummeted since the 1960s. Bishop, co-author of The Big Sort, says that this is not something Trump started; it’s been happening across the board for decades, and not only in the US:
Everything about modern life works against community and trust. Globalization and urbanization put people in touch with the different and the novel. Our economy rewards initiative over conformity, so that the weight of convention and tradition doesn’t squelch the latest gizmo from coming to the attention of the next Bill Gates. Whereas parents in the 1920s said it was most important for their children to be obedient, that quality has declined in importance, replaced by a desire for independence and autonomy. Widespread education gives people the tools to make up their own minds. And technology offers everyone the chance to be one’s own reporter, broadcaster and commentator.
We have become, in Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s description, “artists of our own lives,” ignoring authorities and booting traditions while turning power over to the self. The shift in outlook has been all-encompassing. It has changed the purpose of marriage (once a practical arrangement, now a means of personal fulfillment). It has altered the relationship between citizens and the state (an all-volunteer fighting force replacing the military draft). It has transformed the understanding of art (craftsmanship and assessment are out; free-range creativity and self-promotion are in). It has even inverted the orders of humanity and divinity (instead of obeying a god, now we choose one).
The Benedict Option recognizes that we are in a condition of disintegration, and suggests ways that small-o orthodox Christians can resist it. But what’s happening to churches is, as Bishop says, happening everywhere, to all things. Events like the Kavanaugh hearings only drive the dynamic further.
I think sneering at 1,700 law professors signing an anti-Kavanaugh statement is, in one sense, a healthy act. But that it’s possible, and even necessary, is a sign of a decaying polity. The fact that Kavanaugh’s actual guilt or innocence of these serious allegations doesn’t matter to many liberals is also a sign of a decaying polity. Whether Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Court or not, the respect Americans have for the Supreme Court as an institution will be diminished.
Our institutions are hemorrhaging authority. Nobody knows how to make the bleeding stop. Nobody knows how to stop the accelerating disintegration.