Meditations on the Politics of Limited Knowledge

Kavanaugh on SCOTUS? Some thoughts…

In Current Events on October 3, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Some thoughts on Kavanaugh confirmation, via Twitter thread and prefatory notes, from the day following hearing with Christine Blasey Ford…

I thought he handled himself quite well strategically in the initial hearings. But I was furious at HIM yesterday watching his meltdown. It undermined every suggestions of decency he managed to perform previously. I deeply disagreed with him before, but as of yesterday, he disgusts me.

If I were in the Senate, if Obama’s third SCOTUS nomination had been confirmed, if there weren’t a cloud over the legitimacy of our current president, if the needed White House documents had been provided, and if no major lies from 2006 testimony etc were exposed, I would have seriously considered voting to confirm Kavanaugh despite wildly different jurisprudential approach, policy preferences, and worldview from my own. Lindsey Graham made what would have been a good case for that if we were to put aside all of those big IFs. We know enough now that Murkowski, Collins, Manchin, Heitkamp, Flake, et al, really have no excuse to confirm him.

Ford’s allegations are credible and her actions have bolstered her credibility. Kavanaugh’s response alone has been disqualifying. This is vital to keep in mind because an inconclusive FBI report a week from now could give the swing votes cover to vote for his confirmation. It is vital to keep front and center the indisputable fact patterns that are already disqualifying, even viewed apart from ideological concerns.

See whole thread of my replies to self, the online equivalent of yelling measured, sensible thoughts with rage into a pillow.

I have deëmphasized the direct implications of Ford’s accusations and mostly set aside the ideological concerns I already had with Kavanaugh. But his jurisprudence is not totally separate from this, especially if the allegations are true, which they probably are. If he had internalized accountability for his personal abuse of women early in his life, he might have a more enlightened sense of the importance of constitutional protection of their bodily autonomy.

The rage of privileged white men dumbstruck with the experience of being held accountable and groping for excuses like virginity throughout time of alleged sexual abuse make this connection even more disturbing. His absurd virginity rationale immediately brought to my mind the “incel” rage of resentful little shits who hate women because they are not getting the sex feel entitled to. Sure enough Kav is already a cult hero of the incel resent mongers online. Note that Kavanaugh’s jurisprudence would allow state to control women’s bodies by limiting access to abortion but not control access to assault rifles for disgruntled white boys who shoot up schools.

I also posted an important article from Dahlia Lithwick, published on Slate before the Ford hearing: “How Brett Kavanaugh Erases Inconvenient Women.”

Alcohol abuse seems to be one convenient way he dissociates his decisions from his self-image as pro-woman. Jurisprudence is clearly another.

Lithwick quotes Matt Bai’s piece from before the hearing which drew important attention to Kavanaugh’s utter lack of humility as central to his disqualifying reactions to accusations.

It is was fascinating to hear Senator Flake counsel humility at the end of the Thursday hearings, emphasizing epistemic humility in the face of uncertainty about what happened when Kavanaugh and Ford were in high school and the partisan temptations to overdetermine belief about that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

When Dr. Ford came forward with her account, I immediately said that she should be heard and asked the chairman to delay the vote that we had scheduled. And the chairman did, and I appreciate that. She came, at great difficulty for her, and offered compelling testimony.

You have come and done the same. I am sorry for what’s happened to you and your family, as I’m sorry for what has happened to hers. This is not a good process but it’s all we’ve got.

And I would just urge my colleagues to recognize that, in the end, we are 21 very imperfect senators trying to do our best to provide advice and consent. And in the end, there is likely to be as much doubt as certainty going out of this room today.

And that, as we make decisions going forward, I — I hope that people will recognize that. And in the rhetoric that we use and the language that we use going forward that we’ll recognize that, that there is doubt, we’ll never move beyond that. And — and just have a little humility on that front.

So thank you.

The next day Flake voted along partisan lines to advance Kavanaugh nomination out of committee but called for delay of floor vote for up to one week and a reopening of FBI background check to cover current public allegations. He suggested (but did not promise) that he would vote against confirmation if a floor vote came up without that, and was quickly backed by Murkowski, Collins, Manchin, and possibly Heitkamp. Judiciary Committee then requested that quick investigation and Trump ordered it.

Flake’s humility has led him to admonish his party with patriotic rhetoric, but he’s not seemed to do much beyond that in terms of action, i.e. exercising his distinct power as a Republican Senator. His insistence on delaying the confirmation vote to conduct an inquiry was the first big move he made actually acting on his commitment to democratic humility as a republican virtue (small “d” and small “r”). This sort of humility should not counsel inaction, but step up to the demand of the situation. Since Friday, he has shown some signs that his backbone is newly aligned with his rhetoric and some signs that he will simply cave as usual. In any case, he may have opened up space for Collins and Murkowski to dissent from GOP majority and Manchin and Heitkamp to vote with the rest of the Dems against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which would sink it regardless of Flake flaking.

UPDATE: I have been encouraged to see much of the discourse in the past week focus on the issues many of the issues I’ve raised. If the confirmation question comes down to the question of whether Ford’s allegations are true, expect Flake and probably the Senate (unless Collins & Murkowski swayed) to confirm. If the focus is kept Kavanaugh’s disqualifying behavior since hearings began and the sham investigation failing to meet standards set by Flake et al, I’d expect better odds for failed confirmation.

On the politics of believability in an age of “fake news”…


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