Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. International Politics
5 October 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 5:31pm

Kavanaugh is now set for confirmation, but his every decision on the bench will be suspect

During his confirmation hearing, Trump’s nominee promised Democrats and the country would “reap the whirlwind” for how he was treated.

By Matthew Cortland

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, lacks the temperament necessary to sit in that court’s gallery, never mind on its bench.

But this afternoon, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced they would vote to confirm Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on America’s highest court – likely securing the votes Donald Trump needs.

In her sworn testimony before the Judiciary Committee last Thursday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford described for the Senate and the American people her recollection of being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh.

I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. And as a lawyer, and more importantly, as a human being, I hold that sexual assault is absolutely disqualifying for judges.

But in a lengthy speech from the Senate floor announcing her support of Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, Susan Collins told us she disagrees. Senator Collins said she believes Ford “is a survivor of sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life” but still, somehow, concluded “I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court.”

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

While Collins was on the Senate floor endorsing Kavanaugh, hundreds of protestors outside the building were chanting “Stop Kavanaugh” and “lock him up!” When the chants stopped, a group of women with a megaphone made their stories of surviving sexual assault heard through the imposing stone exterior of the Russell Senate office building.

A few hundred feet away, a coalition of progressive organizations were holding a “#PeoplesFilibuster” just outside the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol. Within earshot of Senators who will vote tomorrow on the ultimate question of putting Kavanaugh on the court, activists have demonstrated around the clock. Chris Kang, chief counsel of Demand Justice, one of the groups organizing the demonstration, explained “we’re out here because over the last several weeks we’ve learned every single person’s voice matters and any person’s voice can make a difference.”

Content from our partners
Transport is the core of levelling up
The forgotten crisis: How businesses can boost biodiversity
Small businesses can be the backbone of our national recovery

Inside the Capitol building, security was very tight. Even credentialed members of the press and visitors with appointments were carefully monitored and corralled by Capitol police. Perhaps this is why?

Rebecca Vallas, a vice president at the progressive think tank Center For American Progress, addressed the President from the podium of the People’s Filibuster. “Donald Trump: if you want to know why we don’t report, IT’S BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU.”

But many people told me how far they’ve traveled to be here, and none of them said they were being paid by Soros.

Outside of the Supreme Court, Alessandra Mondolfi held a sign reading “STOP KAVANAUGH.” She flew in from Miami yesterday in order to protest. After she pays the fine for being arrested by Capitol Police yesterday, she plans to be arrested protesting again tomorrow.

After Ford’s testimony, an incredibly angry Kavanaugh blamed the Clintons for his difficulty being confirmed:

“…this whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus.”

He went on to blame Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, in particular, and Democrats generally. He then seemed to issue a threat: “You sowed the wind, for decades to come, I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.”

This is not the behavior, and these are not the words, of a judge. Judges are supposed to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Kavanaugh has embraced partisan hackery and knife fighting. Should he be confirmed to the Supreme Court, every decision striking down a plank of the progressive agenda will be suspect. Was this Kavanaugh extracting political revenge against the Democrats who dared oppose him? Is this the whirlwind?

As it imprisons children in concentration camps, works to dismantle the health care safety net that the most vulnerable rely on, and elevates an angry, partisan hack who has been credibly accused of sexual assault by more than one woman, I hate that this administration is subjecting so many of us to this endless waking nightmare of our worst memories.

The midterm elections are on November 6th. It’s time to get out and vote.

Matthew Cortland is a lawyer and writer based in Massachusetts. He tweets @mattbc.