Brett Kavanaugh’s tumultuous confirmation saga came to an end on Oct. 6 when the U.S. Senate approved his appointment to the Supreme Court. Despite credible accusations of sexual assault levied against him by Christine Blasey Ford, Republican leaders forged ahead with his nomination process. In the end, their determination paid off. But if Kavanaugh’s ascension to the nation’s highest court surprised you, it shouldn’t; we live in a new era of politics that has expunged the old rules of political engagement.
This was on full display when Kavanaugh reappeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. What ensued was an extraordinary break from tradition as Kavanaugh dropped all pretenses of impartiality. The optics of portraying an apolitical arbitrator of law was no longer necessary. Instead, Kavanaugh angrily accused the Democrats of smear tactics and suggested the accusations made against him were manufactured in order to extract “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”
Despite compelling testimony offered by Ford and a combative rebuttal by Kavanaugh, the most dramatic statement of the week arguably belonged to a protester named Maria Gallagher who, on live television, cornered Republican Sen. Jeff Flake and expressed her disdain for the Senate’s skepticism of Ford. As stated by Gallagher and broadcasted on CNN, “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.”
The most troubling aspect of Gallagher’s statement is how accurately it mirrors the treatment of Ford. You see, it is not that the senators didn’t believe Ford’s story. It is that in the face of achieving a major political victory, the majority of senators simply did not care about her allegations.
Even though Ford testified under oath that she was “100 percent” certain Kavanaugh assaulted her, THEY DIDN’T CARE. Despite the weight of the #MeToo movement and in the face of public protest, THEY DIDN'T CARE.
Why? The answer is as simple as it is demoralizing. We have entered an age of extreme polarization where every political battle is a zero sum game. No matter the cost, winning is the only acceptable outcome. That is the mantra of American politics in 2018. Just win.
A week after mocking Ford’s testimony at a political rally in Mississippi, President Donald Trump hosted Kavanaugh at a White House ceremony meant to honor the new Supreme Court justice. Continuing with his narrative, the President delegitimized the claims of Ford and declared Kavanaugh to be the true victim. In a final exercise of cruelty, Trump offered solace to his political ally. “On behalf of our nation, I want to apologize to Brett and the entire Kavanaugh family for the terrible pain and suffering you have been forced to endure," he said according to an NBC report. There was no apology for Ford or anyone else. And with that, Gallagher was proven right. What happened to her did not matter. What happened to Ford did not matter. In fact, nothing that stood in the way of Kavanaugh’s confirmation mattered. Winning trumped all for the Republicans. And given how the Senate’s voting fell mostly on party lines, this is something the GOP will have to own in November’s midterm election.