Kavanaugh Considerations

The last couple of weeks have been a marathon through everything that makes me want to abolish politics. American politics--and it's cliche, I know, to say this--is less about governing and more--entirely more--about scoring victories for one's team. The fact that both teams are morally reprehensible and without principle makes this worse, but even with quality parties, it would be an unacceptable equilibrium. The Kavanaugh hearings and what's come out of them exemplify the current tragic state of our institutions and our tribal identities.

The FBI investigation's concluded, and defenses of Kavanaugh are still settled into two dominant forms. First, there's the partisan affiliation version: "Kavanaugh is a Republican, and I'm a Republican, too. Therefore we must confirm him." Second is the partisan disaffiliation take: "The left hates Kavanaugh, and I hate the left! Therefore we must confirm him." Notice that neither of these seriously grapple with the concerns one ought to have about his history, behavior, or honesty. (There are, of course, now plenty of GOPers going around saying the FBI report exonerates him, but obviously it doesn't--because it was so limited by White House order as to not really count as an investigation in the first place, and also because the reason to reject Kavanaugh isn't solely about sexual misconduct, but is also about his lying, under oath, about his student years and his alcohol problems, as well as his hyper-partisan approach to defending himself.)

It's the fundamental dishonesty that gets to me the most. Politics encourages us to lie--to our peers, our rivals, ourselves. Republicans are lying about their Kavanuagh reasoning, because they know, if he were a Democratic nominee, they'd be calling him unfit every bit as vocally as the Democrats are now. Democrats are lying, because these are frequently the same people who defended Bill Clinton (that's where MoveOn.org got its very name, after all), and would be defending Kavanaugh every bit as loudly as Republican are if he were instead their own nominee. Republicans are willing to put a potential sexual predator on the court, and are willing to put a known lier and perjurer on the court--and even from the perspective of political brinksmanship, it's entirely unnecessary. Trump could pull the nomination and pick someone without the baggage. Republicans seem to not want to take this route because either they worry about losing the Senate and not getting a new justice confirmed in time (a vanishingly small possibility, unfortunately), or they believe avoiding the appearance of defeat is worth ramming through the confirmation of such a tainted jurist.

The overall point is simply that everyone looks terrible. The Republicans are an outright embarrassment, somehow making themselves look even worse than they already do in Trumpist political and moral catastrophe. The Democrats' faux-principled grandstanding is as phony as it is exhausting. And the sorts of Americans who follow politics and voice their opinions online more or less uniformly look terrible, reducing the possibility of giving a credibly accused sexually violent, belligerent and dishonest drunk a lifetime appoint to the most powerful judicial body in the nation to motivated reasoning, political mood affiliation, and fist-pumping, stick-it-to-the-libs or all-Republicans-are-evil political fandom.

My hope until yesterday was that Kavanaugh's nomination would fail, and that he would be removed from his existing bench for perjuring himself before Congress. Sadly now it seems that's not going to happen. Republicans lack moral will, and this manifestly unfit man will end up on a Supreme Court now facing a considerably legitimacy crisis. Women will rightly question how well their views and needs are represented, or how seriously Kavanaugh is even capable of taking their views and needs, and honest people everywhere will rightly question the new justice's capacity for principle. If he's willing to lie to Congress about youthful behavior, what else is he willing to lie or dissemble about? This all, too, leaves out his questionable jurisprudence on civil liberties, the protection of which is as important as any matter that can come before the court.

This is all very discouraging and frustrating and I don't see any of it getting better any time soon. We are stuck, for the foreseeable future, being governed by people who deserve nothing like the power they've been given, and who are considerably worse, from the standpoint of character, than the average American. We are ruled by the worst among us.