I keep trying to get a handle on what’s going to happen with the Kavanaugh nomination, and indeed with this administration more generally, but I’ve decided that it’s impossible. There are no rules anymore, so predicting current outcomes on the basis of something like the Robert Bork nomination is a fool’s errand. Since we cannot know what is going to happen, we have to be ready for everything.
The GOP calls it moving the goal post, but Kavanaugh’s enraged, dishonest, partisan testimony last Thursday gave a lot of people pause. Over the last week, numerous individuals and groups have taken positions against confirmation including the Jesuit publication America, the American Bar Association, the National Council of Churches, the Kansas City Star, the Press-Herald, and former supporters who changed their minds like Ben Wittes. Wittes’ essay helped me understand why so many GOP members could reasonably have found Ford’s accusation unthinkable – they’ve simply never seen this side of him before.
Last night Ben Sasse (R-NE) tearfully talked about friends who have been raped, acknowledged that 45’s mocking rant against Dr. Ford was just plain wrong, said he’d urged the president to nominate someone else, and then hoped that this hearing would be not a referendum on whether or not to believe survivors. I am 95 percent sure he will vote to confirm.
Pressure on Flake, Murkowski and Collins continues, but Flake and Collins have already said they’re satisfied. Democrats from conservative districts might cave also. The FBI report is not going to give anyone a reason to vote no. Their investigation has turned out to involve less than 10 people, and McConnell made only one copy of the report available to the Senate this morning, with a vote scheduled for tomorrow.
But still, there’s no predicting what will happen next. Confirmation was always the likely outcome, but resistance gave rise to challenges that no one imagined a mere month ago. If people had accepted confirmation as inevitable – if Dr. Ford had, for example – the GOP (and indeed the country) would not have had to grapple with sexual assault in this way and Kavanaugh’s Jekyll/Hyde persona would not have been revealed. How much work we still have to do as a nation on the problem of sexual assault would still be hidden.
Every time I think I know what’s going to happen, I am reminded that I really don’t. When the best happens (activists move Jeff Flake to demand an investigation), it turns out to be a false victory (the investigation is a sham). When the worst happens (women are shamed and shamed and shamed and shamed), we find each other and new solidarity emerges with people who have never weighed in before.
My conversations with elders about sexual assault and harassment in the last few days have revealed their sympathy, their own stories and their horror over Kavanaugh’s behavior. Maybe that’s why I cried so hard upon reading Connie Chung’s Open Letter to Christine Blasey Ford. I grew up watching Connie Chung – she was the only Asian American woman on TV in the 70s. For the first time, she shares the story of being violated by her gynecologist as a young adult, some 50 years later. I hurt for my elders holding those stories for so long, yet these conversations and revelations have been a blessing.
But Kavanaugh’s testimony and its aftermath have also animated conservatives, including women, who rail against feminists perceived to be taking down a good man. This reaction appears to be shrinking previously polled Blue Wave enthusiasm, or at least challenging it. A new poll by NPR/PBS News Hour/Maris shows that a 12-point Democratic lead from a month ago has shrunk by half.
With Democrats already fired up for this election, the Kavanaugh confirmation fight has apparently had the effect of rousing a dormant GOP base. "The result of hearings, at least in the short run, is the Republican base was awakened," noted Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.
We may win, we may lose, but our wins and losses will each contain elements of the other.
More information, more discussion, more action – these are always good things. In the middle of all this, a federal judge yesterday blocked the administration from ending the Temporary Protected Status program that allows people from Haiti, Sudan, El Salvador and Nicaragua from being summarily deported. A short reprieve, perhaps, but one that enables us to fight another day.
Not knowing what will happen means that we have to be prepared for anything and everything. This prospect is stretching my emotional, intellectual and even physical abilities to their max, but I see no other stance for the current situation. This nomination fight isn’t over until it’s over, and it may not even be over then, because new options may arise for dealing with court bias. But we also have to prepare for a Supreme Court that vacates Roe and makes abortion illegal in some parts of the country. Maybe we should be building a network that can get women to a safe, legal and affordable abortion by other means. Not after the vote or after the election, but now.
Whenever and however this administration comes to an end, making a whole society out of this mess is going to be our job, which means it’s already our job because we don’t actually know what is going to happen.
Today I’ll go to the anti-Kavanaugh protest at Trump Tower. Yesterday I gave some money to help people get to DC for protests. Tomorrow I’ll do some thinking about what we will do when the Supreme Court upholds the most mean-spirited, racist and sexist laws coming out of this administration. The next day I’ll help register voters. The day after that I’ll assess what it would take for the level of protest that could actually shut this administration down. Big and small, now and later. Holding the immediate fight and the long-term rebuilding in my head makes it hurt. I’m sorry if I’ve given you a headache too. We’ll just have to breathe through it and keep going.