Law & the Courts

After Kavanaugh

Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh takes an oath during his ceremonial public swearing-in as President Donald Trump and Kavanaugh’s daughters look on in the East Room of the White House, October 8, 2018. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The Democrats have created an environment that will render ordinary political discourse almost impossible for years to come.

Donald Trump is not on the ballot in November. Senator Dianne Feinstein is.

And so is Feinstein-ism, which is probably more important.

Senator Feinstein is leading her opponent, Kevin de León, by 22 points in the polls. California may be a young and Latino-heavy state, but the Democratic party remains the party of little old sanctimonious white ladies — or, in the case of Robert Francis O’Rourke of Texas, the party of sanctimonious white prep-school toffs who run their political campaigns under pseudo-Hispanic nicknames in the hopes of knocking out an actual Latino senator in order to go sit with that little old sanctimonious white lady who pretends to be a Native American (seriously; Rachel Dolezal wasn’t available?) — and it is unlikely that Senator Feinstein is going down in political defeat, even though de León enjoys the official party endorsement.

But there is an opportunity to strike a blow against Feinsteinism.

Feinsteinism is the sanctimonious-white-lady answer to what Tom Wolfe called “mau-mauing,” the practice by which so-called community organizers extorted money out of local governments in places such as San Francisco (where Senator Feinstein once served as mayor) in the name of civil rights or economic development. Mau-mauing isn’t ordinary politics, and it isn’t protest, either. It is, as Brett Kavanaugh has discovered, more like a softer form of terrorism. “Mau-mauing brought you respect in its cash forms: namely, fear and envy,” Wolfe wrote. “It created a personal, internal fear.”

One can almost admire the brazen, cynical genius behind the Democrats’ smear campaign against Judge Kavanaugh, which is only the logical extension of the similar campaigns they conducted against Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas — and, for that matter, George W. Bush, about whom the Democrats said more or less exactly what they say today about Donald Trump, i.e., that he represented a unique threat to American democracy, a clear and present danger to the republic not seen since . . . the last time there was a Republican president. The Democrats lost this one, and they do care about winning, but this kind of mau-mauing is not only about winning in the particular matter at hand: It is about fear. Even if you don’t win this round, you can encourage would-be participants to sit out future contests — especially if they have families.

The Democrats’ strategy can be summarized: “Sure, you may win an election. And, sure, you may be an accomplished jurist with a sterling record. But if you come between us and what we want — and what we want is the power to dominate you — then we will slander you as a rapist, and our media friends will see to it that this slander, no matter how obviously false, is the first thing people think about when they think about you, for the rest of your life. You may beat us in an election, but we’ll take it out on your children, and we have the New York Times and the Yale Law School. Enjoy your victory.”

The enforcement is ruthless: Voice actor Rachel Butera noted (and gently mocked) the fact that Christine Blasey Ford has an odd style of presentation — she is a 51-year-old woman who spoke before the Senate in the voice and style of an eleven-year-old girl — and was savagely hounded for it. There already have been demands that Disney fire her for the offense (she is the voice of Princess Leia in an animated Star Wars series) and it would be no surprise if she ended up losing her job over it.

That is the Left’s way of doing business: Hold a judicial philosophy at odds with that of Senator Feinstein and you’ll be denounced as a rapist, go to work for the New York Times or the Washington Post or ESPN while holding heterodox political views and you’ll be denounced as a racist, sexist, bigot, etc. Point out that there are inconsistencies in an accusation — or that fabricated sexual-assault allegations are not-uncommonly used as political weapons — and you’ll be denounced as a rape apologist. The point of that isn’t only to interfere with the careers of the Brett Kavanaughs and Bret Stephenses of the world but also to make things as painful as possible for those who work with them and for those who come after — or might come after — them.

It’s tempting to think of that as banana-republic stuff, but it’s just bananas.

My conservative colleagues have done themselves credit in their scrupulousness in their treatment of Christine Blasey Ford. (Though could we just once stop and think about the fact that “Believe the victim!” is a textbook example of begging the question?) But there are lies afoot here, and there is the cynical exploitation of lies, too. Under Senator Feinstein’s leadership, the Democrats have introduced weaponized slander into the arsenal of ordinary political weapons. That is a bell that probably cannot be unrung. The Democrats have created an environment that will render ordinary political discourse almost impossible for years to come, initiating an attack on fundamental democratic norms — and on decency, too. This has been shameful, and there should be a reckoning.

That reckoning will not come from the New York Times or from the faculty of the Yale Law School. And it will not come from mind-killed partisans who will believe — or at least pretend to believe — anything that justifies and facilitates their pursuit of power. “She sounded credible to me!” they say. People who are telling us what we want to hear often do. That isn’t good enough — and this cynical smear campaign cannot be allowed to go unanswered. Everybody likes to think that they would have had the good sense and spine to stand against Senator Joseph McCarthy or the House Un-American Activities Committee.

But as the Democrats in rodential retreat go slinking sideways away from this failed attempt at character assassination, what will we do? Not only in November, but after? They would very much like to make this election about Donald Trump, but this has very little to do with the president. They tried to do the same thing to Mitt Romney that they tried with Brett Kavanaugh, and they would have done the same thing if it had been President Romney naming a new justice.

If you don’t punish a political party for this, what do you punish one for?

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