Would pushing the Kavanaugh nomination through the Senate have long-term consequences on the mostly male politicians who support the judge and our governmental institutions? Certainly. The following reasons suggest that more prudent decision-making should control this process in view of the long-term effects.
1. The vetting process of Judge Kavanaugh is not over. It will continue even when he is safely on the Supreme Court. There is no statute of limitations in Maryland on sexual assault where the alleged crime was perpetrated against Dr. Ford. Clearly, the court of public opinion has not yet made up its mind. With or without an FBI investigation, Judge Kavanaugh will continue to be investigated.
2. The jury is still out on President Donald Trump and whether he has committed impeachable offenses. It is possible that more of his accusers (women who have been paid by him related to their sexual interaction with him and pressured into signing non-disclosure agreements while powerful people work behind the scenes to keep their stories out of the press) could still come forward. If that is the case, the people he has put in positions of power are tainted, to say the least, especially if the president came to their rescue when they were accused of actions against women.
3. The Republicans may have failed in their strategy to be “nice” to Dr. Christine Ford. Being “nice” does not mean just hiring a prosecutor to ask her questions (implicitly because the judiciary members were incapable of being “nice”) but means taking her testimony seriously. It is possible to draw the opposite conclusion, that the strategy of giving Ford a stage and then being content with letting her disappear behind the curtains was a cynical and disingenuous action. If anything, the process shows that men have regressed in their dialogue with women who have something “unpleasant” to say. Whereas men used to notoriously try to silence women like Dr. Ford, the refusal of republican senators to question her suggests something far more destructive; the symbolism suggests, “We will not have dialogue with you.”
4. Refusing to have dialogue is one thing but initially refusing to engage in fact-finding when a credible, outstanding (by any measure) woman comes forward with serious allegations is abandonment of responsibility by a high institution that is supposed to represent our collective standards of fair conduct. This body also engaged in a disreputable and glaring double-standard, willing to put to test the memory of one who has suffered trauma but not willing to put to test the memory of a key witness to the event, Mark Judge, who by Judge Kavanaugh’s account is a recovering alcoholic whose memory was definitely impaired by the blackout incidents he admitted. In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham, Dr. Ford has a “problem”? It is documented that Mark Judge has a “problem” and, yet, over and over again, the brief document he produced for the committee with his lawyer attesting to his “truth” goes ws taken as true. Only under considerable pressure did the republican senators on the committee reverse themselves.
5. In the final analysis, it is more prudent to seek the truth than political advantage. The reason for prioritizing the truth dating back to political philosopher John Locke is that the truth will make itself known. And, if the truth that becomes known does not square with the impetuous decisions of members of the Senate judiciary committee, unanticipated and unfavorable consequences will make themselves known. To restore integrity to the committee, truth-seeking must be its highest purpose. To grandstanding politicians, your reputations will be tested over the long-term.
Dr. Mary Troy Johnston is a retired political science professor from Loyola University New Orleans.