The reputedly most unpopular Supreme Court nominee in 31 years was just confirmed to the court that decides important cases such as Roe v. Wade, marriage rights, and citizenship rights. If you’re among most people who don’t know who Brett Kavanaugh is or the fight over his nomination, read the next three paragraphs. Or if you’re like me and follow the news almost religiously, skip to the conclusion for my opinion and let’s see if we disagree or not.
After a nearly three month contentious and partisan nomination process, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed on Oct. 6 as the newest associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s appointment had been briefly in doubt after accusations of sexual assault came to light, but he was ultimately approved on a near-party vote (51 to 48). With the 24 hour news cycle continuously repeating, taking a step back is necessary to see just how the most unpopular Supreme Court nominee in 31 years was confirmed.
Going into the vote, the final tally was still uncertain. The two last remaining swing votes– Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)– hadn’t yet announced their intentions. Collins, seen as one of the few true senate “moderates”, had remained vocal throughout the entire process saying she was taking Kavanaugh’s accusers seriously in her decision making. Manchin is a Democrat from one of the most conservative states in the county. Hours before the vote, Collins took to the floor of the Senate to give a speech in which she ultimately announced she would be voting “yes.” Her announcement was followed just minutes after by Manchin who said in a press release he too would be voting “yes,” giving the Republicans the votes to put Kavanaugh on the court.
Prior to just a few weeks ago, Kavanaugh’s nomination had been largely ignored by both the media and the voting populace. Other than the occasional news story of how he accrued thousands of dollars in debt on baseball tickets and who paid that debt for him. The oncoming confirmation battle started almost immediately after The Washington Post published an article detailing a letter sent from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (a research psychology professor from California) to the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) which described a party that Ford attended in the 1980s at which she claimed Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. In order to negate the allegations, Kavanaugh gave an interview to Fox News, leading to complaints of him made being a partisan actor. At her own request, Ford appeared before the Senate in an open public hearing. Throughout the hearing, she was understandably questioned by the Republican senators on the panel (as well as, for a short time, by an independent prosecutor they hired). The Republicans were trying to refute her story, while she received only praise from the senate Democrats for speaking out. Following her testimony, Kavanaugh told his side of the story. His opening statement came in stark contrast as he was visibly angry and outwardly antagonistic to the senator’s questions. I found his most noteworthy comment to be those he made to senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). After Klobuchar questioned him on his drinking habits, and whether or not it was possible he did not remember the incident, Kavanaugh turned the question around and asked her how much she liked to drink. Brett Kavanaugh’s eventual ascent to the Supreme Court further advances the idea that some (or most?) actions go without consequence, for political operatives, leaving ideology and partisanship to be the key factor in deciding who holds office. While these are no doubt the main factors in most electable positions, should they be when choosing someone to serve a life term on what (until recently) is/was deemed an a-political body who is often tasked with checking the very two branches of government that appoints them?