It’s hard to know what to say this morning, after Kavanaugh’s nomination to former Justice Kennedy’s seat on SCOTUS received the endorsement of the Republican-controlled US Senate Committee on the Judiciary. I feel rage. I feel nausea. But merely expressing those feelings isn’t nearly enough. Even voting this November, while necessary, isn’t nearly enough. The Republicans have most blatantly betrayed the principles they claim to espouse and at the same moment betrayed the people they represent, the traditions of the Senate, the Supreme Court, and even the more abstract course of – and frankly possibilities for -justice in the USA. We must understand both the magnitude of the Republican betrayal as well as its motivations and its methods.
This can’t be the post that does that. There will be many books written about those topics by persons far more knowledgeable than I. But I know enough to appreciate some of the magnitude, motivations, and methods, and even something as lowly as a pseudonymous blog post can be part of the initial efforts to understand these things. This post won’t do much in that department. I will write more later today and certainly even more over the weekend. But right now I encourage you to think not of my rage or sickness, but of that of Republicans generally and Republican Senators specifically.
Lindsey Graham has been called out, most appropriately, for his outbursts in yesterday’s Republican debacle. His rage is quite visible, quite audible. If like mine your skin tightens and your hairs stand while listening to his wounded aggression, his rage is palpable. But what is the content of that rage? It is most certainly complex (in ways future books will show), but the lions share is visible to all: he rages at checks upon his powers and prerogatives. I submit that much of the Republican Senatorial rage is similar. He takes personally the idea that he must pay a political cost in voting to confirm the nominees that will enact his anti-woman, anti-abortion agenda. With Republicans the majority in the Senate, he expects to be able to pack SCOTUS. With Kavanaugh rendered obviously unfit due to the petty lies in his testimony that would make him a perjurer even were he entirely innocent of the assault on Dr. Blasey Ford and also by the partisan temper and conspiratorial thinking on display in yesterday’s testimony, there is little time left for Trump to nominate anyone new before the midterms. He has the majority right now, but his power to do as he wills to the future of the US Constitution, its judiciary, and its practice of justice is hedged, impinged. It is not even eliminated, as shown by the committee’s vote this morning, but it is made both difficult and politically costly by the nation’s witness of Blasey Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s pettiness, dishonesty, and entitlement.
The sickness, well: there’s never been a time when the Senate hasn’t been sick. Classism, sexism, and racism (just to name 3) have plagued the Senate since its inception. Yet the Senate has made progress. Now instead of simply dismissing the idea of a woman Senator of south-east Asian dissent, we actually have a couple! We just don’t let them use the private elevator. With so much distance between 1789, cultural as much as temporal, it’s easy to imagine that change as gradualist. But the change in Senators’ votes and positions over time, while constant, differs vastly in rate at different times. Sometimes the change does seem to move us toward a better society. Other times it moves us distinctly backwards, undoing positive changes that came before. But more frequently than moving backwards, it does neither of these things: changes move us towards a worse, more unjust society, but not the same unjust society as years before. When I can better organize my thoughts, I’ll talk more about the sickness I see today that is different from the sickness I saw 27 years ago when the Senate tormented Anita Hill. But for now, I will satisfy myself by saying that I believe this is one of those times. The Senate is developing new symptoms of disease rather than merely re-experiencing some that had been in remission.
To say what must be said will take us years, so let us act first, even as we are uncertain of the details of any necessary solutions, even as we are uncertain of the details of all the present problems. Contact your US senator, if you have one. Do what must be done even if it seems all hope is lost. Do your Dylan Thomas. Learn your Edmund Burke. Together we will become our Margaret Mead.