Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation would mark the death of my America

And there’s nothing anyone can do to save it. 

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He’s going to be confirmed. Leave your hope behind now, because, no matter what, it’s going to happen.

I’d love to be wrong. I’d love to look at this piece in 12 hours’ time and squeal-laugh at my pessimism with wine sloshing around in a glass in my hand. But I feel sure that I won’t. Brett Kavanaugh will make it past these hearings, he’ll make it past the Senate vote, and will be confirmed to fill the spot as the ninth Supreme Court Justice after being left vacant by Anthony Kennedy. He’s going to be confirmed.

I cried watching the Trump inauguration last January. But, I guess, let’s be honest, so did everyone I knew. At that moment it felt acutely like the world was falling apart but, since then, nothing in American politics has had the same, sharp effect. Obviously watching every single thing the Trump administration has done has been horrendous, from normalising racism, tearing apart immigrant families, and destroying lives in places like Puerto Rico, but watching it from thousands of miles away has merely made me numb. I was lucky enough to be so far away that I could see it, be horrified, and then pretend it wasn’t happening (painfully, stupidly privileged, I know).

The only way through it was my personal balm, one I’m sure any sane, pragmatic American is mantra-ing to themselves right now: “This can be undone – maybe not immediately, but soon enough.” It’s one that has not necessarily helped, but has tempered that full, unadulterated pain into something marginally manageable. We’re only ever two years away from an election in the United States, a way to stop these things, some of these things, from happening, which is regular enough to give you hope, or at least something to campaign for.

But today, that will change – today that balm runs out. If, as I expect, the Senate committee will vote to put Brett Kavanaugh forward as the nominee, and then the Senate will confirm his nomination, in a matter of weeks, or months, he will be placed on the Supreme Court. At 53-years-old, he will be gut-wrenchingly young for a Supreme Court Justice, and he will sit there for, likely, the next 40 years.

I was born in suburban Ohio in an upper working-class family in a distinctly middle-class neighbourhood (if you’ve read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, you essentially have the perfect picture). My mom was a Chicagoan whose father died when she was nine and whose legally blind mother had to support three daughters on a teacher’s salary. My dad was a Greek immigrant, who moved to the US on a boat in the late sixties, when neither he nor my grandparents could speak a word of English. I had a rough childhood, but I was lucky to live in a safe place with a mother who was good enough to make up for an abusive father, and had a pretty easy life in the grand scheme of things. Although I don’t often feel it, my upbringing was deeply American: it was Midwestern, at times challenging, and rooted in immigration and the American Dream. I guess, all in all, it makes me deeply American too.

I moved to the UK when I was 18. Initially, my plan was to eventually go back the the US. But as time passed, my interest in moving back waned, to the point where I knew I wouldn’t go back any time in the immediate future. I’ve lived here for six years, nearly all of my friends are and my partner is British, and I see the UK as my home, and, for now, my short-term settling place.

But as an EU citizen living in this country (yes, my life is an unrelenting hell), the last few months have left me more conscious of where I physically want to be. I’ve joked with my partner about making us move to Ohio, and less jokingly mentioned living in New York or DC if I am kicked out after Brexit. Although I would say to my friends, “I’m never going back to the US,” a small voice inside my head always thought it might happen, or at least thought that that option would always be there for me. Something I’d hate to admit, and hate to admit now, is wanting to have a Bill Bryson-esque experience – after decades of living in this country eventually going back to the United States for some short time and reconnecting with the place where I spent the formative years of my life. 

At 9:30AM Eastern Time, though, I expect the Senate committee will vote to let Kavanaugh be confirmed and the America I would hope to reconnect with will be left behind to die. And with it will go any chance of me ever living there again.

If predictions are correct about the cases floating around the lower courts that will make it to the Supreme Court in the coming years, Brett Kavanaugh will get to vote on abortion rights, same sex marriage, trans issues, and civil rights; and that’s before considering a whole host of other issues pertaining to people’s liberties we don’t even have on our radar yet. He will tip the balance of the court from the liberal, progressive majority we’ve enjoyed for the better part of the last decade into being predominantly filled by conservative, Christian fundamentalists who will undoubtedly let their ideologies guide their rulings. This is not some Trump policy that will cause enormous, inexcusable damage in the short-term, but could ultimately be undone by a new Congress or new President (even a different Republican one). These things will have lasting effects. Women could be harmed without access to abortions, non-white people and anyone LGBT+-defining will be exposed to even more violence than they are already, as their rights are stripped away. 

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this will affect American lives for the next one hundred years. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that more people will die.

Today, Brett Kavanaugh will overcome the last real barrier to becoming the 114th Supreme Court Justice in history, the 108th white man. Today, Republican senators will knowingly put aside decency and the truth in order to get what they want. Today, Brett Kavanaugh will be given permission to undo the last fifty years of progressive change. And today, America takes a step in a direction from which it can never come back.

This morning, in an exhausted haze, I woke up and cried. But, I guess, let’s be honest, so did everyone I know. I, like many expats, will be mourning the America that, until now, we thought we could eventually save. Whether you blame the Senate committee, the Republican Party, Donald Trump, or the white men, and white women, who voted for him, it doesn’t actually really matter anymore. Because later today, my America will die. And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Sarah Manavis is the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. Sign up to her free weekly newsletter the Dress Down for the latest film, TV, art, theatre and book reviews.

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