Politics & Policy

Campus Chaos Has Come to Congress

Sen. Cory Booker (left) and Sen. Kamala Harris listen to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, September 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool via Reuters)
The Senate adopted the modern university’s doctrine of self-censorship, no-go zones, and safe spaces

The polarizing atmosphere of the university has now spread to Congress.

During the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, we witnessed how college values have become the norms of the Senate. On campus, constitutional due process vanishes when accusations of sexual harassment arise. America saw that when false charges were lodged against the Duke University lacrosse players and during Rolling Stone magazine’s concocted smear of a University of Virginia fraternity.

Americans may disagree about the relative credibility of either Kavanaugh or his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford. But they all witnessed how the asymmetry of the campus governed the hearings.

Ford’s veracity hinged on empathy and perceived believability. There was little requirement of corroborating testimonies, witnesses, and what used to be called physical evidence. In contrast, Kavanaugh was considered guilty from the start. He had to prove his innocence.

One belief of the university is the postmodern idea of relativist truth.

On campus, all can present equally valid narratives. What privileges one story over another is not necessarily any semblance to reality, at least as established by evidence and facts. Instead, powerful victimizers supposedly “construct” truths based on their own self-interests. As a result, self-described victims of historical biases are under no obligation to play by what they consider to be rigged rules of facts, evidence, or testimony.

This dynamic explains why Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J) insisted that Dr. Ford told “her truth.” In other words, evidence was not so relevant. Ford’s story of events from 36 years ago inherently would have as much claim on reality as Kavanaugh’s rebuttal — and perhaps more so, given their different genders and asymmetrical access to power.

There was little interest in discovering the ancient idea of “the Truth.” To do that would have required the messy work of taxing the memories of teenage behavior nearly four decades prior.

Truth-finding would have required difficult, time-honored examinations of physical evidence, the testimony of witnesses, and even unpleasant cross-examinations about the time and place of the allegations. Feelings might have been hurt. Motives might have been questioned, as they are under constitutional norms of due process.

Also on the campus, the race and gender of people now increasingly determine who we are.

Republican senators were repeatedly written off by critics as “old white men,” not unique individuals who might be disinterested or biased, fair or prejudicial.

Kavanaugh was largely assumed guilty, in part for once being a privileged white kid of 17 who had gone to a prep school.

Meanwhile, Booker, by virtue of not being old and white, was considered a credible- senatorial examiner. No one cared that Booker had once invented stories about an imaginary friend named “T-Bone.”

Such blanket race- and age-based stereotyping was not even consistent. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) is 72 and white. Yet given his progressive politics, no one dismissed him on the basis of gender and age, much less for being a serial fabricator who concocted false stories of being a Vietnam veteran.

The Senate also adopted the modern university’s doctrine of self-censorship, no-go zones, and safe spaces.

Given issues of gender and the university concept that accusations of sexual assault inherently are exempt from constitutional protections of due process, Ford was more or less excused from normally tough cross-examination.

In her testimony, Ford never explained why, despite her self-professed fear of flying, she has been a frequent flyer on business and leisure trips.

Ford’s privacy and medical status were understandably to be respected and off-limits. Yet Ford suggested that her friend, Leland Ingham Keyser, was suffering from “significant health challenges” after Keyser did not corroborate Ford’s allegations.

Ford was never really asked why her narratives concerning the number of witnesses to the alleged assault and their genders were not compatible. Her accounts of the location and time of the alleged assault were either inconsistent or nonexistent.

In contrast, Kavanagh was grilled on everything from his high-school yearbook to a made-up accusation that he once committed sexual assault on a docked boat in Newport, R.I.

Swarming and shouting down those who hold different views in order to shame and intimidate them is part and parcel of the modern university. Now, we are seeing such campus street theater in Congress. During a break in the hearings, female protesters cornered Senator Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) in an elevator and screamed in his face.

The psychodrama worked — just as it usually does on campus. A shaken and flushed Flake soon backed down from his stated intention of voting to confirm Kavanaugh.

Campuses are no longer out-of-touch ivory towers. Their creed is now beginning to run the country, which is frightening.

© 2018, Tribune Content Agency, LLC

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

Most Popular

Elections

RIP Bloomberg 2020

I thought that Bloomberg’s confused half-defense of stop-and-frisk was going to be his low point. Well. His torturous response on his lawsuits and NDAs was truly awful -- beyond incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the end of Bloomberg 2020. Read More
Elections

RIP Bloomberg 2020

I thought that Bloomberg’s confused half-defense of stop-and-frisk was going to be his low point. Well. His torturous response on his lawsuits and NDAs was truly awful -- beyond incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the end of Bloomberg 2020. Read More
Law & the Courts

Bill Barr Derangement Syndrome

Can the republic survive Attorney General William Barr? That’s the question that has seized the media and center-left, which have worked themselves into a full-blown panic over an attorney general who is, inarguably, a serious legal figure and one of the adults in the room late in President Trump’s first ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Bill Barr Derangement Syndrome

Can the republic survive Attorney General William Barr? That’s the question that has seized the media and center-left, which have worked themselves into a full-blown panic over an attorney general who is, inarguably, a serious legal figure and one of the adults in the room late in President Trump’s first ... Read More
Elections

At the Debate, Only Losers

To be honest, I’d almost forgotten what they were like. Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate was revealing: Mike Bloomberg was revealed to be unprepared, something for which a man with his resources has no possible excuse; Amy Klobuchar was revealed to be a stammering daisy, her big moment ... Read More
Elections

At the Debate, Only Losers

To be honest, I’d almost forgotten what they were like. Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate was revealing: Mike Bloomberg was revealed to be unprepared, something for which a man with his resources has no possible excuse; Amy Klobuchar was revealed to be a stammering daisy, her big moment ... Read More
Elections

Revenge against the Deplorables

One of the theories behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, one often shared by his more devoted fans in the media, is that Democrats lost voters to Donald Trump in 2016 because they had ceased to talk about the economic issues that matter to those voters. Hadn’t Obama also shared his concern about trade deals and ... Read More
Elections

Revenge against the Deplorables

One of the theories behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, one often shared by his more devoted fans in the media, is that Democrats lost voters to Donald Trump in 2016 because they had ceased to talk about the economic issues that matter to those voters. Hadn’t Obama also shared his concern about trade deals and ... Read More