Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Why Kavanaugh's Confirmation Matters Less than you Think

Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed on the US Supreme Court thanks to the strident support of Republican Senators who were nonplussed by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, corroborated reports of excessive drinking, and his partisan tirade in the Senate. This is a sad time for those who support gender equality, and environmental protections. It is also a dangerous time for a bitterly divided nation.

Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski are two Senators who deserve credit for putting country ahead of their personal interests. They voted against Kavanaugh even though it will likely prove politically costly.

Kavanaugh is an unpopular choice to be sure. According to an SSRS poll the majority of Americans oppose the newest member of the Supreme Court. More people believe his accuser than believe him. This was one of the closest Senate confirmation votes  (51 to 49) for a Supreme Court Judge in history.  When the vote was announced thousands of people immediately took to the streets to protest.

While a credible testimony from Dr. Blasey Ford stalled his confirmation, people were taken aback when Kavanaugh unleashed a barrage of attacks against Democrats and wild left wing conspiracies. In his testimony before the Senate Kavanaugh's rant made it clear that he is not be the temperate voice that Americans should expect in a Supreme Court judge. Instead his angry tirade fanned concerns that he will be both partisan and ideological.

Republicans and Trump

Trump may have put Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because his stance on executive powers amounts to a get out of jail free card. The president vociferously defended Kavanaugh in the same way that he defended a slew of people accused of sexual misconduct.

Republican Senators are the reason that Kavanaugh was confirmed with all but one voting for him.  Republicans have a morally reprehensible voting record and they seem to be even more disinterested in the plight of the common man now that they have become the party of Trump.

Republicans gave us Citizens United, they engage in gerrymandering and voter suppression, they resist science and deny the veracity of climate change. This is a party that supported the Trump administration's evisceration of hard won environmental regulations that protect the health of Americans. This is the very same party that supports Trump as he maligns venerable institutions including the free press.

Under this regime wealth inequality has increased and the failure to invest in infrastructure and the clean economy ensures that the nation will be less competitive going forward.  Rather than trying to make the nation more efficient Trump has adopted a policy of energy inefficiency. His insane energy policy and radical deregulation may augur a short term spike but economists are concerned that it leaves the economy poorly positioned to confront the marketplace of tomorrow. 

With one exception the entire Republican Senate dismissed the women who claimed they were assaulted by Kavenaugh. Trump who is facing almost 20 allegations of sexual assault, is infamous for saying that he grabs women by their genitalia. Republicans are now the party of Trump, and like the commander and chief they are hypocritical liars who are bereft of morality. They lambasted Democrats for stalling Kavenaugh's confirmation, however, they conveniently forget that they would not even consider Obama's centrist nominee Merick Garland under the shady pretext that it was too close to the election (Obama had 10 months left in his term).
The confirmation of Kavanaugh may prove to be a Pyrrhic victory. As Ohio Gov. John Kasich told CNN, "sometimes, you can have a short-term win, and the long term, you have to wonder about the soul of our country".

Citizens divided

The flood of secret political funding unleashed by the Citizens United ruling is at the center of much of what is wrong with Washington. For years politicians have been beholden to special interests, but that hold intensified in the wake of the Citizens United ruling. It expands the power of groups who covertly wage war against facts, science and truth.

Trump has declared war against the press because he and his Republican minions want to control the narrative. Delegitimizing sources of fact based information is essential which is why they have targeted domestic and global institutions that serve as a bulwark against leaders who would subvert Democracy.

The strategy of divide and conquer is as old as politics itself. They stoke fears and hatreds with disinformation that sew divisions. The influx of dark money into the Republican party has fueled the growing gulf that separates those who believe the facts and those who have been seduced by disinformation. 

Not all bad but hardly good

The Supreme Court has taken steps to protect the health of Americans. The so called endangerment finding was a 2011 Supreme Court decision that gave the EPA authority to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act.

The Supreme Court has pushed back against gerrymandering and exposed the dark money financing of conservative political candidates. As reported by NPR the Supreme Court recently ruled that campaigns must disclose where campaign contributions are coming from. This ruling will apply to political ads for the 2018 midterms.  According to a new report from Issue One, organizations like the Koch network's Americans for Prosperity, the NRA and the Chamber of Commerce pumped about $600 million into elections between 2010 and 2016.

However, the highest court in the land has also pandered to Republicans who have used the false flag of voter fraud to suppress voting rights. In a June 2018 ruling the US Supreme Court gave states permission to purge names from voter roles and some states are taking full advantage of the decision.  In a 5 to 4 decision the dissenting judges argued that this amounts to voter suppression and ignores the National Voter Registration Act which was enacted to allow low income and minority voters from casting their ballots.

Weaponizing victimization

Trump has stood by a long list of men accused of sexual assault including predators like Roy Moore. In many cases he has tried to portray the perpetrators as the victims in much the same way as he describes himself as a victim (he has discredited or paid off at least 19 women who have made allegations of sexual impropriety against him). Most recently Trump called the allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh a hoax. It is no coincidence that Trump used the same language to describe climate change.

Trump's mendacity is already legendary. The Daily Show's Trevor Noah has made some astute comments about Trump's weaponization of victimhood.
"For me I feel like there is a larger narrative" Noah said. "Trump's most powerful tool is that he knows how to wield vicitimhood he know how to offer victimhood to those who have the least claim."
Trump's defense of Kavanaugh and others is also an attempt to undermine the #MeToo movement. This is yet another chapter of Trump flipping truth on its head. Men are not the victims they are the perpetrators. However, Trump is using his power to ensure that fewer women come forward.

Trump helped to give birth to the farcical #himtoo movement which decries all the men who have been falsely accused of sexual abuse (the fact is this is a very rare phenomenon).

Protests and voting

The composition of the Supreme Court is important but it is not as important as some may think. It is true that Americans cannot count on the courts, however, it arguable that they never could. Historically, massive protest augured progress on important issues not the courts.  

In 2005 Howard Zinn wrote about John Roberts confirmation as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, followed by the nomination of arch conservative Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. In response to the question, "Are you going to be on the side of the little guy?" Roberts replied: "If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy's going to win in court before me. But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well, then the big guy's going to win, because my obligation is to the Constitution."

If the Constitution is the holy test, then a justice should abide by its provision in Article VI that not only the Constitution itself but "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land," Zinn wrote. "There is enormous hypocrisy surrounding the pious veneration of the Constitution and the rule of law. The Constitution, like the Bible, is infinitely flexible and is used to serve the political needs of the moment...It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice."

Zinn points out that the Constitution failed to support people who oppose wars, or workers rights and racial equality. Women's rights, a prescient issue in the context of the confirmation of Kavanaugh, were not  achieved through the courts, they were achieved due to grassroots protest which forced the hand of the Supreme Court.

"The rights of working people, of women, of black people have not depended on decisions of the courts. Like the other branches of the political system, the courts have recognized these rights only after citizens have engaged in direct action powerful enough to win these rights for themselves,"Zinn wrote."Still, knowing the nature of the political and judicial system of this country, its inherent bias against the poor, against people of color, against dissidents, we cannot become dependent on the courts, or on our political leadership....The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Before the Law," have always been a sham...the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system..fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence--an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be fulfilled."

As Zinn points out protest is the key to change. There is no better way to manifest dissent than to vote. Republicans must be held accountable for their support for this president and their voting record.  The forthcoming midterms are a perfect opportunity to make a statement. This is how legislators can be elected that will do their job and check executive powers.  Kavanaugh cannot be counted on to defend protections forged in law, however, people can auger change by registering their dissent at the ballot box.

If Democrats can wrest control of the House from Republicans truth will once again have a champion in government and the American people will be given access to facts beyond the deceitful narratives emanating from the White House and the GOP. The best way to counter the confirmation of Kavanaugh is by voting to take back the House in November. 

Updated October 11th 2018 at 9:55 am

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