Alaska Brief–October 2018
Civility feels like a distant memory, consensus a foggy dream.
What happened to listening to understand? What happened to empathy? What happened to representational governance?
All of that evaporated during confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh last month. The political process meant to assess a nominee’s qualifications for the country’s most important legal position failed to address real questions about his fitness for the role.
There were legitimate concerns about the appointee’s temperament and partisanship. Not only was sexual misconduct at issue, Kavanaugh’s own testimony included a blatantly partisan rant that should have caused all Senators to doubt his ability to adjudicate without bias. The American Bar Association and 365 law professors opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The U.S. Supreme Court, and courts in general, are supposed to be the least partisan branch of government where the rule of law generally prevails.
Yet, in this hearing, elected leaders dismissed the voices of the public and used the opportunity for grandstanding and moral outrage. The demeaning of survivors of sexual assault ranged from ignorant to outright offensive.
Tell me again why victims of sexual assault and harassment do not report?
Holding a hearing without listening
Even before Dr. Ford testified, Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said, “I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close. Here’s what I want to tell you: In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.”
That statement says it all. Sure, tell me about it, but nothing will change my mind.
It is troubling that the Senate confirmed Justice Kavanaugh by the smallest margin in 149 years. Justice Clarence Thomas was second. There might be a pattern here.
It is also troubling that our elected leaders lost sight of the context of this hearing: it was a job interview. It was not a criminal prosecution, requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Would you hire someone as a U.S. Supreme Court justice in these circumstances?
“Winning at costs” means we all lose
The Kavanaugh hearings were a public display of the “winning at all costs” mentality in Congress and the White House. Instead of telling the President to find another qualified conservative nominee–and there was a list–the GOP majority decided to “plow right through it,” as Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said.
Plow right through is what they did.
The balance of powers is more fragile today because of these hearings and the outcome. The trust we must have in our highest court has eroded.
Those with vast wealth and power continue to chip away at rules and policies that protect our environment, health, and human rights, and they do so by exerting enormous pressure on our representatives in Congress. Their access buys what the rest of us cannot afford financially, and it prevents true justice and liberty for all.
Early voting just started in Alaska.
Voting is the highest civic engagement we have as individuals in this country. It is a right and it is our voice. You can’t get to the change you want without using it.
If you do one thing this week, vote.
PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.