Politics & Policy

Kavanaugh Casualties

Signs at an anti-Kavanaugh protest in Washington, D.C., September 27, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
In tatters: The mainstream Left, Never Trumpers, conventional wisdom, #MeToo, the media . . .

When the Christine Ford saga finally ended with the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a lot of truth had distilled out, along with the evaporation of prior pretensions and misconceptions.

 

The Left

The hearing confirmed that the traditional JFK/Hubert Humphrey Democrat party, as once envisioned by a Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, or Jim Webb, is long kaput. In its place is being birthed a hard-left progressive movement that absorbs the ideologies and methodologies of its base and that now incorporates all sorts, from Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist hipsters to Black Lives Matters, Antifa, and Occupy Wall Street protestors.

The new progressives recently have come to believe that they gain traction by the theater of disrupting senate hearings, cornering senators in elevators, stalking them on the way to work, doxing their opponents on the Internet, and during the hearings throwing out the concept of due process. Any means is deemed permissible to enact visions of social justice, given legislative and executive power is lost for now — and as if proverbially ordinary Americans who watched the televised circus might applaud the performers.

Diane Feinstein, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democratic fossils on the Senate Judiciary Committee may in their golden years try to lumber onto the departing progressive train, but their septuagenarian and octogenarian creaky efforts to get on board grow sad. Joe Biden was reduced to threatening to beat Trump up behind the locker room. Diane Feinstein staged a clumsy eleventh-hour ambush of the hearings that proved pure bathos. Even leftists such as Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren fear that they are suddenly pseudo- revolutionaries, compared with the new, far more radical Jacobins, who in cyclical French Revolutionary style call for massive repeals of all student debt, free tuition, packing the Supreme Court, Medicare for all, a specified end to fossil fuels, quotas based on identity politics, and an abolishment of Immigration and Custom Enforcement. No one quite knows how far this cannibalistic cycle will go.

The emotional powerbase of the new Democrats is now Corey “I am Spartacus” Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and thousands of state and local Ocasio-Cortezes. Barack Obama really did fundamentally transform the old Democratic party. Or rather from 2009 to 2017, he dismantled it at the congressional, state, and local levels while he was elected twice to the presidency. But even the now multimillionaire Obama appears to the new Democrats as a near has-been sellout. And in his fifties, he will have to hit the streets again, in his prior mode of “get in their face, bring a gun to a knife fight, punish our enemies,” to recapture his hard-left fides.  

 

The hatred of Kavanaugh and the left-wing repudiation of due process and of Senate protocol and tradition united the Democrats by moving their party far more to the left rather than to the center. Apparently, Democrats must embrace or at least excuse Antifa-like tactics or they are no longer Democrats. Diane Feinstein’s reprehensible behavior must be seen in this context as seeking to be as radical as the unhinged expressions of Kevin de León, her election rival for the Senate seat.

Yes, both parties are now more united and energized. But one did so by enticing the recalcitrant back into the fold; the other, by warning them to join the revolution or be guillotined.

 

Never Trump

The character assassination of Brett Kavanaugh by unsubstantiated rumor and gossip put Never Trumpers in a bind, or rather split them in two. Kavanaugh was nominated by the hated Trump, but his record and endorsements by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society mainstreamed the choice. He was neither a liberal David Souter in conservative sheep’s clothing nor a crony appointment like the failed Harriet Miers nomination.

The preppy Kavanaugh — by class, education, comportment, and prior employment — was about as pure a Bushite as one could imagine. His opinions were doctrinaire conservative and traditionalist, in the sense of interpreting rather than making laws.

To destroy a judge like Kavanaugh reflected that the New Left’s hatred of Trump had always been incidental to its essential loathing of conservatives in general. For a remnant group of Never Trumpers to oppose Kavanaugh, then, reflected the elevation of their own personal hatred for Trump over the critical elevation of a principled jurist to the Supreme Court. Supposedly, Kavanaugh was soiled by a Trump handprint, and therefore it was better to have a more liberal court than see Trump get any credit for taking the court in a direction only previously dreamed of by conservatives.

Never Trumpers had always assured their former conservative colleagues that Trump would either fail or prove liberal. But he has done neither. And as far as his demonstrable crudity and uncouthness, the hearings showed that the Democrats were far crueler and crass in deed than Trump was in word. So perhaps half of the small minority of Republican Never Trumpers, in horror at the Antifa tactics of the Democrats, retreated to the old adage of “hang together or hang separately.” Those who doubled down by joining leftists in opposing the Kavanaugh nomination revealed that they have crossed their Rubicon and now are either orphaned or unabashedly part of the new progressive Democratic party — at least until their useful obsequiousness no longer serves current progressive agendas.

 

Conventional Political Wisdom

Kavanaugh was not supposed to display too much anger at the Left that sought not just to thwart his confirmation, but destroy his person and his family as just deserts. At noon on the day of his final appearance, Kavanaugh was declared dead after the sympathetic but otherwise not credible testimony of Christine Ford. But by day’s end, Kavanaugh’s freelancing explosive defiance had saved the nomination, showing that conventional wisdom’s “judicial temperament” when smeared was merely a noble way to lose.

Trump was damned at a rally for mocking Ford’s full-of-holes assertions — and for the nth time written off as crude, crass, and uncouth. But Trump haters so often let their venom blind them to Trump’s cunning: 1) He is reactive not provocative. All week Trump was demonized, and so his description of Ford and her enablers was seen as righteous retaliation not a bullying attack; 2) Trump has an uncanny sense of the pulse of public opinion. He waited to apply the coup de grace until Ford’s own narratives, which she changed numerous times, were being picked apart not so much as incomplete but as impossible to reconcile; 3) Trump realizes that it is his defiance as much as his message that wins him fealty. He never publicly flinched from his support for Kavanaugh and by doubling-down told his base that if Kavanaugh was going down, so would he. After eight years of perceived namby-pamby Republican contextualization, even mainstream conservatives seem to appreciate defiance. And they got it in spades with both Kavanaugh and Trump, whose both defied collective conventional wisdom of just letting it be.

 

The #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo movement is imploding. By its recent McCarthyesque excesses it is undoing a great deal of good that it had once done, in Hollywood and the media especially.

Once #MeToo embraced the generic position of “she must be believed” even when there is no evidence, and even despite overwhelming contradictory evidence, then the movement, willingly or not, had sided with Phaedra over Hippolytus and Mayella Violet Ewell over Tom Robinson. It would render our Western cultural inheritance — from Socrates’s Apology and Alfred Dreyfus to The Ox-Bow Incident to 12 Angry Men — null and void.

A republic cannot survive any revolutionary movement that insist that its moral claims are so exalted that 2,500 years of Western jurisprudence must be jettisoned, as if “sincerity” established “believability” and believability in turn “credibility” — all without evidence, witnesses, or substantiated testimonies. The result of such ideas would be the nightmarish world of either a regimented Ninety Eighty-Four or the chaos of the Lord of the Flies.

The Kavanaugh hearing was the ultimate but logical continuation of the Duke Lacrosse and Rolling Stone travesties. The #MeToo excess was even likely to have pleased the ogre Harvey Weinstein — a sexual predator who for decades was exempted by liberal Hollywood enablers and appeasers either on the theory of “Well, he may be a predator, but he’s our predator” or “He’s bad, but not always bad for me.” Weinstein may now claim that what happened to the hated conservative Kavanaugh earlier had happened to him, the once beloved liberal, or he may say something like “See what happens when you lose liberal warriors like me.”

So #MeToo has transmogrified into a partisan political movement. Once it took down one too many liberal journalists and politicians, it was steered back onto a progressive course. The police report about Keith Ellison and recent testimony from his former girlfriends did not constitute “substantiation” and therefore were not “credible” in a way the incoherent writ against a 17-year-old Bret Kavanaugh, 36 years ago, most certainly was. Once #MeToo became an arm of the progressive political movement, as witnessed by the Kavanaugh debacle, it lost credence as a movement of righteous indignation whose targets were mostly contrite predators. Today, increasingly, the alleged predators targeted by #MeToo are conservative.

 

The Blue-Chip Media

The New Yorker and Ronan Farrow will likely be more remembered for their abject Ramirez fantasies than the earlier Weinstein realities. They ran with a story that had no substantiation, no coherence, no witnesses.

Such an article, without any evidence, would never have been published about a liberal justice — and the authors and their editors, of course, knew that.

The NBC interview with Julia Swetnick was an unmitigated disaster. When a marquee network warns its own audience that the comments of the interviewee either could not be confirmed or were contrary to her earlier testimonies, then the natural question arises: Would NBC ever have run such an interview with an unhinged conservative critic who, without evidence or testimony, had recently alleged that she had 36 years earlier seen a liberal justice commit gang rape in his teens?

The New York Times had to retract a false allegation that Mark Judge had more or less had changed his story and now had confirmed his presence at the alleged party: “An earlier version of this article misstated what Mark Judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said that he does not remember the episode, not that he does.” “Fake News” is an overused phrase, but it proves a euphemism when describing the recent behavior of The New Yorker, the New York Times, and NBC.

When Donald J. Trump rants at his rallies about “fake news” and claims that the media is not just biased but lies, Americans wince — but now more so at the accuracy of his charges and no longer so much at the crassness with which he delivers them.

 

The Old-White-Men Slur

The media and Democratic operatives pounded the idea that Senate Republicans were “old white men” and symbols of a has-been old-white-man country that is unfair and cruel. Given that Christine Ford was not exactly young but was clearly white, why did progressives not just say “men”?

The answer, of course, is that the progressive movement sought to use the Kavanaugh hearings to empower a larger race-and-gender identity-politics agenda, in which the perennial targets are old white guys. The operating theory is that women, the nonwhite, and young hipsters by their gender, race, or age — and their collective victimization — are innately preferable and more deserving people.

But once progressives drew up those insane rules, the subsequent spectacle was judged by their own standards. Mitch McConnell proved a far more adroit senatorial manager than Chuck Schumer. Chuck Grassley sounded more judicious and worried about the rules than did Diane Feinstein. Lindsey Graham was far more coherent and focused that Senator Spartacus. Prosecutor Mitchell was to the point, direct, and transparent in a way Christine Ford was not always.

More important, for millions of Americans watching the spectacle, the results did not play out so much as an old-white-guy melodrama as a class-and-gender psychodrama. Most men of all races and classes cannot accept a new reality that they can have their careers destroyed, without appeal to due process, at any moment by an unsubstantiated accusation dating from when they were 17 — all on the pretext that a destructive career inquisition “is not formally a criminal trial” and therefore not subject to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution. And if there was any stereotypical lesson to be had, it was that many on the senatorial panel and the legions of advisers and lawyers on the Ford Team, as well as Ford herself, by their class, education, and comportment, increasingly seem quite different, quite more privileged, and quite more self-absorbed than most average Americans of all backgrounds who have little sympathy for the psychodramas of a pampered and professional class.

 

 

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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