On October 6th, 2018 Judge Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th U.S. Supreme Court Justice after the Senate narrowly voted to confirm him 50-48 (Washington Post). This day marked the end of a tumultuous four month battle between democrats and republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. His nomination was announced on July 9th along with 25 qualified candidates identified by the Trump administration. The 114th U.S. Supreme Court justice nomination was under close watch from the moment it began since it was President Trump’s second Supreme Court judge placement in less than two years. Filling one of the court’s nine coveted seats is one of most powerful legacies a president can leave behind, and Trump has enjoyed an unusual opportunity to make his mark, twice.
Kavanaugh’s nomination garnered attention when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward with allegations of sexual assault dating back to their time in high school. Although it was interpreted by some as a last ditch effort by the democrats to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation, news media outlets said Ford reported the incident as soon as Kavanaugh’s nomination was announced. In early August, Ford contacted California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein via a letter and reported an allegation of sexual assault involving Judge Kavanaugh and his friend during a party 30 years ago. Importantly, she asked Feinstein to keep the matter confidential. When asked why she responded “why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?” (CNN). Her confidentiality wouldn’t remain a secret much longer.
The American people began to hear hits of sexual assault allegations in early September but the details were muddled. Senator Feinstein forwarded the alleged misconduct to the FBI for further investigation with Dr. Ford’s approval. All eyes turned to Kavanaugh. Who was the accuser? Was it true? If so, what did it mean for the nomination? Was this the #MeToo movement making a difference? Was this the #MeToo movement going too far? On September 17th, Kavanaugh visited the White House and issued a statement strongly denying the allegations agreeing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee (NPR). In response, each of the ten democrats on the committee called on Chairman, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, to delay the vote. Meanwhile at the White House, Kellyanne Conway spoke on television and said the Dr. Ford should not be insulted or ignored, but that her story should be heard. Both parties knew the MeToo environment was going to largely effect the nomination, and both parties wanted to use it to their advantage. The democrats used the MeToo movement to galvanize outcry against Kavanaugh even though they had minimal evidence. The republicans used the MeToo movement rhetoric to cover their bases and assure women voters their voices would be heard. But is that what was really going on? Neither party was innocent, instead, they took advantage of Dr. Ford’s brave testimony and Kavanaugh’s dramatic stage performance to gain followers and polarize our nation further.
The nomination process continued to exasperate long standing grievances between democrats and republicans. Exactly what a serious sexual assault allegation and supreme court nomination should not be. So how did we arrive at this point? What went wrong? We lost trust. We lost trust when our president said that Dr. Ford’s allegations were a “con game” against Kavanaugh and mocked her courageous testimony during a political rally (Fortune). We lost trust when Kavanaugh sat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and raised his voice in anger while pointing fingers at his accuser somehow acting as though he was the victim. We lost hope when the democrats walked out of the confirmation hearing signifying the depth of division in our politics. We lost hope when women’s stories and fears became political capital instead of serious allegations. We lost hope when a Supreme Court nomination became the deciding factor in whether or not women matter to our government. We lost hope when the #MeToo movement became the #NotMe rally. What should have happened? A thorough investigation, uninterrupted nor influenced by the White House. Ford could have decided to release the letter sooner so that there was more time for an investigation and less reason for the republicans to frame it as a political last ditch effort. Kavanaugh could have humbled himself and prioritized the importance of women everywhere by stepping down and allowing a new nominee to take his place. We could’ve done better. And I hope next time we will.