What Did we Learn from the Kavanaugh Hearings?
It’s been a year since Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court; what have we learned? If we had been able to peel away the battle for political power entwined in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, we would have been left with a fairly simple problem, starting with some basic facts: The FBI supplemental investigation was clearly not thorough; it failed to review Kavanaugh’s drinking habits. We all know heavy drinking results in lowered inhibitions and unclear memory (among other things). And if the Kavanaugh and his “drinking buddies” could have remembered everything from that haze, they had very strong motivation to deny some of them.
Yet, Kavanaugh and supporters expected us to trust them--the privileged party boys that are now men in the upper reaches of society--and not believe the women. Or (not often stated but definitely implied), they wanted us to disregard the events entirely since they happened long ago, when the actors were young and stupid. But, as we all know, these reasons are not legitimate excuses, especially if there is no repentance, and we saw none from Brett Kavanaugh. Repentance, like justice and honesty, seems like a quaint relic found only in fairy tales—only for the naïve or unambitious.
The judge was not on trial, so the evidence did not need to be enough to convict him of a crime, or even to force him to pay damages. Unfortunately, the Senate confirmation process is fuzzy, at best. Regardless, Kavanaugh was applying for a job—the highest profile in his profession--one that requires, at its core, a commitment to searching for and facing facts and truth with as much impartiality and humility as a human can muster. Kavanaugh failed to meet that most basic requirement.
But alas, the process played out in almost the worst way it could have. One thing most of us can agree on is that it was not fair—not to the judge and not to the women that accused him. From the disturbing timing of the accusations to the rushed and nowhere-near-thorough background investigation, the whole thing was mishandled badly by the political class. But what else should we have expected in this cut-throat, hyper-partisan environment. Today, regular politicians are able to slide even deeper into the gutter, including the most overt corruption, disdain for the truth, and unlimited nastiness to smear the opposition. This is all perpetuated by the polarization of the nation.
What’s left for us out here in normal land, where there are still some shared goals and at least a modicum of cooperation to achieve them? It would be dereliction of civic duty to ignore the big issues, even though we can easily bury ourselves in family, work, civic groups, and hobbies. A leader like Lincoln or one of the Roosevelts could possibly rally us, but I’m skeptical of how we would respond to even that kind of person. Witness the response to the Mueller report—the Kavanaugh affair times ten.
More broadly, how do we address this yawning chasm in our culture—this canyon—formed and deepened by the erosion of shared values and purpose? I don’t see how ignoring it helps. I’m trying not to give up on finding the answers, but I fear they really are blowin’ in the wind.