The Corner

Politics & Policy

‘Innocent until Proven Guilty’ Is a Pretty Darn Good Hill to Die On

I wrote to a longtime reader and NR supporter this morning, that in the wide realm of our crazy modern politics, and all the intense, impassioned fights of the past few years . . . this is a pretty darn good “hill to die on.” Not the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh per se, but the concept that you are innocent until proven guilty.

We already were warming up to this issue as the revelations of #MeToo progressed — and whether “weird lunch dates” belonged on the same list as rape and sexual assault. How serious does behavior have to get before it should provoke consequences? How much evidence is required for a conviction in the court of law, and in the court of public opinion? How can the wrongfully accused possibly get their reputations back?

This fight isn’t happening in a vacuum. We live in an era where an ill-thought outburst on Twitter can get someone fired. We’ve seen both angry social-media mobs and real-life mobs attacking people for having views that the mob opposes. “Doxxing” — revealing people’s home addresses and phone numbers — is the popular new tool for harassment and intimidation.

At the heart of the dispute about Kavanaugh is a fundamental question for a free society: Do we want accusations to be treated as sufficient evidence of guilt? If we do, we’re not just undoing American traditions — we’re undoing a concept that’s been part of Western civilization since the Magna Carta.

People are genuinely arguing that “only the guilty fear an investigation.”

If anything’s ever been worth losing a Senate seat over, or risking the loss of cushy gigs after retiring from the Senate, this is it. If we who believe in the necessity of the presumption of innocence, due process, and the need for incontrovertible evidence win this fight, we will have done something important and lasting — pushing back powerfully against a hysteria that wants to weaponize accusations to destroy people regardless of their guilt or innocence. If we go down fighting, we’ll at least know we fought for what was right. And if we go down fighting, we probably won’t want to live in the world where the believe-all-accusations crowd set the rules, anyway.

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