By David Hamilton ‘17
For three months, since July 9 through his confirmation on October 6, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was engaged in a lengthy and ultimately contentious battle for the open seat on the bench of the highest court in the land. After being nominated by President Donald Trump, Kavanaugh is the 114th justice of the Supreme Court, filling the vacancy of the now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Now 53 years old, Kavanaugh has an undergraduate and law degree from Yale, and has much experience backing his nomination. He actually served as clerk during the 1993 term under Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he replaced on the bench. He hasn’t spent much time outside of the government in his experience. Kavanaugh served as assistant to the independent counsel in the investigations of the Clinton administration, five years as an associate counsel and staff secretary under the Bush administration, and was later nominated by Bush and then confirmed as a part of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.
The Democrats put up an incredible fight to prevent his confirmation. The hearings held by the Senate Judiciary committee were very interesting over the past few months, to say the least. Originally, the vote was to be held without adequate time to review the presented information on Kavanaugh’s nomination, but then timelines were pushed and the court moved forward. Protests were very consistent throughout his nomination, including some that led to arrests in the hearings as they were happening. When this started, the protests were focused on Kavanaugh’s level of experience, until one woman took a step onto the national stage.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who went to school and had encountered Kavanaugh, felt the need to step forward and tell her story to the nation before the final vote was made on his nomination. Dr. Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault from an encounter they had in the early 1980’s, according to Fox News, back when he was 17 years old.
This severe accusation resulted in multiple hearings and an FBI investigation (that was limited in scope according to the New York Times). His accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, testified, as did Kavanaugh, in a day that many called historic. The nation became divided on the issue over the weeks that Dr. Ford brought this to light, leading to vast speculation and protest. The #MeToo movement raised its voice as well, calling for support of Dr. Ford and all other victims of sexual assault, whether they reported the incident or not.
The President spoke on the matter as well. In his tweet, President Trump expected that if the attack was “as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities.” Immediately this sparked an outcry on social media platforms worldwide, bringing light to the many reasons as to why someone would not report an incident such as this, and why Dr. Ford felt the need to report it so many years later.
Many forces are at play in a sexual assault and we should have a much better system to facilitate reporting and support victims. Dr. Ford overcame many of these in order to pursue what she said to be her “civic duty”. Kavanaugh was seeking a position on this highest court, one where he would be able to influence our nation for decades, and she felt that she could not let her encounter with him left unacknowledged. Doing so with a national audience is something that is truly admirable, to say the least.
On October 6, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in after a close 50-48 vote in the senate. A big success for the Trump administration, but also another setback to those affected by sexual assault.
One thing that greatly helped in his nomination is that during the judicial nomination process, there is no longer a requirement of a supermajority to end a filibuster and move forward with the nomination of a lower court judge. This means that Kavanaugh had the potential to be confirmed even with a slim majority, and he was–by one vote.
President Trump is also claiming success over his confirmation, saying that his mockery of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made it happen, and that anything from here “doesn’t matter” because he “won”, according to CBS News.
President Trump, his administration, and Kavanaugh may see this as a victory, but this will likely greatly hurt him in 2020. Mockery like this has been eating at his voter base since he entered the office, and this nomination may have cost him a lot of votes in the next election. The #MeToo movement will likely become very vocal as presidential campaigns begin, and sexual assault may be one of the primary debate topics. Anyone that is running for office in these midterm elections should be cautious as well, Trump supporters could be at risk of losing their seat, especially considering how recent these events are with elections coming up in November.