It didn’t have to be like this. There was a different way. Imagine if, as a nation, we did not have to witness the gut-wrenching partisan spectacle that was the Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford hearings. Let’s talk about what could’ve happened.
Imagine if the senate still required a sixty-vote threshold to consider a supreme court nominee. Imagine if the whole affair had gone down like this: In July, Mr. Kavanagh’s name appeared in the media on a shortlist of potential nominees. Dr. Ford sees the list and discusses this with her friends to decide whether or not she should come forward. Then she writes a letter to her Congressional representative (all of which she did).
Imagine if that representative then gave the name to Senator Feinstein (which is also what happened). Now imagine Senator Feinstein meeting with Dr. Ford verifying her account and then meeting with Senator Grassley privately. Senator Grassley then informs the White House that they may have a problem with Judge Kavanaugh. He makes it clear he cannot get 60 votes with this kind of an accusation. The White House simply removes the name and focuses on additional nominees. Judge Kavanaugh’s career moves forward with the added idea that at least he made a short list. Dr. Ford is heard and knows she did what she felt was best by coming forward (sadly, this is not how it happened).
Instead, we have a Republican Senate that refused to even interview or meet with a moderate candidate put forward by a Democratic president. Instead, the Senate established the scorched earth precedent of winner takes all that helped create this hostile partisan climate.
In reality with a sixty-vote threshold Mr. Kavanagh’s name may have never appeared on short list because of his controversial time with Kenneth Starr’s investigations of the Clintons and his work on helping to justify torture during the Bush years.
If Merrick Garland had been seated by a bipartisan super majority, like those who have gone before him, the Republicans might now be confirming someone like Neil Gorsuch with no drama.
Instead, we have the Democrats using an earnest citizen like Dr. Ford in a high stakes game of partisan chicken. Holding off her account until late in the process in order to maximize the drama. Using the victim of sexual assault as a pawn in their partisan game. It’s disgusting.
Likewise the faux outrage of the Republicans is nauseating. They could have spared judge Kavanaugh the public embarrassment of confronting something from thirty-six years ago. They act as if they have never seen such a partisan outrage as the Democrats are now engaged in when they know full well they helped create this toxic environment.
I don’t think there are many fair-minded people who think this issue is black and white–who look at Dr. Ford as a manipulative, scheming, democratic operative, or who view Mr. Kavanagh as a wild, out of control, alcoholic, serial rapist. If you do check your tribalism.
I think most fair-minded people see the situation something like this: Dr. Ford is telling the truth as she remembers it. She was terrified that day and thought she might actually be raped or even accidentally lose her life. Mr. Kavanaugh drank too much in his younger days and was most likely involved in some despicable behavior. However, he has grown up since then and is not now some kind of out of control, drunk assailant.
It’s easy just to blame the opposing tribe for this problem. In reality we are the ones to blame. Our republic is no stronger than those who support it. It may seem small, but I plan on writing my two senators. I’m going to ask them what they’re doing to reach across the aisle. What they’re doing to help find a nominee who could get more than sixty votes. I want to know how often they meet with the other party. What are they personally doing to breach the divide? No matter how the vote turns out for Mr. Kavanagh, this process is broken and the court’s reputation will suffer. We can do better than this and we should insist on it.