Kavanaugh Kills Senate Republicans’ Last Shred Of Dignity

Americans of all political persuasions should be alarmed to see their elected officials’ last pretense of civility and decency collapse.
Brett Kavanaugh testifies about sexual assault allegations on Capitol Hill, September 27, 2018 (Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS)

Brett Kavanaugh testifies about sexual assault allegations on Capitol Hill, September 27, 2018 (Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS)

Americans saw something very disturbing yesterday during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. After an emotional but composed testimony during which right-wing pundits’ spirits sank, Judge Kavanaugh, along with Senator Lindsey Graham and nearly all of the Republican men on the committee who spoke came out screaming and ranting. Literally.

They cried, they stomped their feet, their eyes bulged from their sockets, and spittle flew from the corners of their mouths contorted in hatred. Conspiracy theories flew loosely, and the only thing missing was Graham taking off his shoe to do his best Kruschev at the UN impression. It was maybe one of the lowest points in American politics since the Civil War, when actual fights would break out in Congress.

Of course, the right didn’t see it that way. In overjoyed tweets in which random all caps were liberally employed — incidentally, randomized all caps is the only thing the right allows its disciples and acolytes to do liberally — they raved about the passion of standing up to their most reviled foes, their fellow Americans from across the aisle, and in support of a Kavanaugh crying, again, literally, that the Clintons were out to get him.

The last remaining barrier between fire-breathing, hyperventilating conservative pundits and our elected leaders was broken, and they cheered this disconcerting milestone. But there’s an inherent contradiction between the MAGA hordes and people like Kavanaugh and those trying to shove him through to the Supreme Court, a contradiction which creates a paradox in this exercise in praising fire and fury.

Consider that Kavanaugh comes from a wealthy family, attended an all-boys private school with a golf course, went to an Ivy League college, and overall, lived a life of leisure and luxury. His placement on the Supreme Court comes at a time when President Trump, a New York billionaire who was also born into wealth, may face charges for financial crimes and runaway corruption, and Kavanaugh is heavily implied to be ready and willing to protect his fellow one-percenter from the rule of law.

Isn’t this the exact kind of corrupt clubby elitism that the MAGA wrecking ball was going to bring down? Didn’t the whole movement that took the GOP by storm start with a rejection of globalist elites, the bankers, the country club backroom dealers, the kleptocrats, the tax cheats, the people who filled their bellies with steak and fine cognac while sending red-blooded working-class Americans’ jobs overseas?

So why would they tolerate wealthy, connected men of privilege throwing a temper tantrum like spoiled brats in a toy store instead of acting in the dignified manner required of those leading a superpower they maintain is the greatest nation the world has ever known?

Well, conservative politics hammer home that those who are financially successful and well connected are more or less God’s chosen people. Their success is something to emulate and that you too can be just like them if you work hard and study under their tutelage. It’s where trickle down economics meets the prosperity gospel and how they’ve metastasized into the gig economy where you need a side gig for your side gig on top of your day job to make ends meet, but it will all be worth it when you’re a millionaire. Somehow.

While the corrupt businessman, politician, or judge can be your enemy, he’s simultaneously your “better” and if you serve him well, you’ll get bigger scraps off his table than the peasants over which he rules. (Well, unless he has liberal views on things, in which case he’s obviously a monster in league with the Satanic pedophiles who secretly run the world.) And so, if said “better” is throwing a temper tantrum, you have little choice but to cast it as passion and righteous fury, even when it’s blatantly obvious that it’s a meltdown by someone who just heard the word “no” that could very well remain a no, for the first time in his gilded life.

But this is a dangerous road to take, especially in the context of where this happened. This wasn’t a rowdy night at the country club after some tempers flared. This was a hearing about the fate of the Supreme Court of the world’s leading superpower — although it’s being, yet again, literally laughed off the word stage — in a Congressional chamber. If there’s a time and a place that calls for dignity and restraint, surely this must meet all the criteria.

And yet, the “betters” in charge had full-blown meltdowns and wailing fits because one of them might not get what he believes he’s entitled to, even though they could have persuaded Kavanaugh to withdraw and easily install a conservative jurist with far better optics, someone in the mold of Gorsuch who easily sailed through his nomination.

But no, the second half of the hearing was wealthy white old men demanding to know how dare anyone stand in their way, constructing elaborate conspiracies and issuing threats in between seething their revenge fantasies. Kavanaugh was at a job interview, and after showing nothing but contempt for his interviewers he still expected to be hired, and his country club peers had conniptions on his behalf.

This sort of behavior would hardly be appropriate in a kindergarten classroom, much less the chambers of government, and yet we are to consider these men leaders wise enough to be in charge of this country’s future?

The same men who think that even if their fellow “better” raped someone in high school or shoved his penis in someone’s face in college, and became a high functioning alcoholic with mysterious debts suspected to be from a gambling problem, these are just normal rites of passage, but finding these things problematic and impeding his ascent to a lifetime job with incredible power are offenses warranting shrieking at their colleagues with faces lit by incandescent fury?

The same men whose behavior would’ve likely earned them a timeout, a grounding, and stern talking to if they were children are the men we are to trust to declare wars, write and pass laws, and oversee the framework underpinning our lives?

When we say that character matters, this is what we’re talking about. We’re talking about having the wisdom to look past one’s socioeconomic class and with who you play golf, and make tough choices while remaining composed and emotionally stable. Just being realistic, we understand that the wealthy and connected will always be overrepresented in positions of power. But if that’s where they end up, we expect them to act like statesmen capable of seeing the big picture and acting accordingly.

And this is the test Republicans failed, along with being able to show basic human decency when confronted with a rape survivor who they proceeded to interrogate by proxy while making sexist comments about her to the media.

So don’t let the sycophantic pundits desperate for the crumbs being tossed at them con you. What we saw wasn’t a display of leadership and conviction. What we saw was a hysterical public meltdown by frat boys old enough for an AARP membership closing ranks around a fellow traveler and chanting a more eloquent version of “bros before hoes.” The only things missing were mandatory keg stands after their turns.

Opinion // Brett Kavanaugh / Congress / Supreme Court