The other day, I was FaceBook PM’ing back and forth with a very good friend of mine about all this. We compared theories and hot takes. We told each other exactly what we thought, the way very good friends do. We didn’t agree or disagree 100%. At the end of the day, I signed off: “I am so ready for this to be over.” She messaged me back: “You and me both.”
According to my social media feeds, I should be overcome with hysteria or euphoria right now, depending on which letter is on my voter ID. Believe it or not, there is a reaction icon for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh that falls somewhere in between “screaming gutturally” (really) and doing the cha-cha. I’m having trouble coming up with a pithy way to describe it though. How do you describe that dull, flat feeling you get when you’re supposed to feel something, but you don’t?
Perhaps the simplest way to express it is that I’m tired. I’m almost too tired to write this post. I’d rather be sleeping than blogging right now, about anything, but especially about this. But in this moment, there are just a few things that need to be said. Things that other outlets, including outlets I have written for, probably won’t say (they’re currently doing the cha-cha). Things that some people who read this post will not understand. But some of you will. This is for you.
Let me get this out of the way first: This is not about what Brett Kavanaugh may or may not have done to Christine Blasey Ford in high school. My own thoughts on the matter would probably annoy almost everybody, so I’m not going to write a hot take for the sole purpose of annoying almost everybody. I leave that to others.
The one thing I can un-controversially say is that this entire process has been a circus of the most ghastly, bitter partisan variety. Slightly more controversially, I refuse to say “A pox on both your houses!” and pretend that the most ghastly behavior hasn’t come consistently from Democrats. Many of us watched Susan Collins’s blistering take-down of whoever first leaked Blasey Ford’s letter to Feinstein. It was epic, and I have nothing to add. Susan Collins is right. So was Lindsey Graham (who knew?)
In sum, it’s been hell. We went through hell to get to where we are now. So where are we now, again?
Susan Collins reminds us:
There has… been considerable focus on the future of abortion rights based on the concern that Judge Kavanaugh would seek to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Protecting this right is important to me. To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our constitution itself. He believes that precedent is not just a judicial policy, it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent. In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration. It is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed except in the most extraordinary circumstances. The judge further explained that precedent provides stability, predictability, reliance and fairness…As the judge asserted to me, a long-established precedent is not something to be trimmed, narrowed, or overlooked…In short, his views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.
Noting that Roe v. Wade was decided 45 years ago and reaffirmed 19 years later in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, I asked Judge Kavanaugh whether the passage of time is relevant to following precedent. He said decisions become part of our legal framework with the passage of time, and that honoring precedent is essential to maintaining public confidence… Finally, in his testimony he noted repeatedly that Roe had been upheld by Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, describing it as “precedent on precedent.” When I asked him “Would it be sufficient to overturn a long established precedent if five current justices believed that it was wrongly decided?” he emphatically said, “No.”
Collins goes on to discuss the now going on 40-year-old tradition of making the pledge to nominate anti-Roe justices a plank in Republican presidential campaigns. She then reminds us with great relish of the fact which has haunted pro-lifers for lo these many decades: that justices O’Connor, Souter and Kennedy were all Republican appointees, and that all three co-authored the Casey decision reaffirming Roe. “Suffice it to say,” she twists the knife, “prominent advocacy organizations have been wrong.”
But we can rest assured that Judge Kavanaugh is not here to do “the bidding” of “conservative ideologues.” For Collins, and, she judges, for Kavanaugh as well, Roe does not qualify as one of those “rare, extraordinary” cases of a “grievously wrong decision” that must be overturned. Grievous wrongs such as Plessy vs. Ferguson, for example. Because clearly, separating black children from white children in schools after they’re born is a grievous wrong. But separating black children from the wombs of their mothers before they’re born, well, that’s just a very personal choice.
Judge Kavanaugh is not here to take away your choice, Collins soothes. Of course he’s not. What sort of spittle-flecked, raving right-wing lunatic did you take him for? He falls well within “the legal mainstream.” Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg said so. You can take that to the bank, America.
I said I wasn’t feeling anything. Maybe I lied. Maybe I am feeling something. Maybe I am angry. Deep, seething, boiling anger, mixed with grief. Grief for how the moral and legal abomination that was Roe vs. Wade has become so ossified in America’s collective unconscious that men of decent character and sharp mind can no longer see it for what it is. Or perhaps they can. But perhaps they won’t.
And so it has come to this. So we have slogged through mud and slime, so we have crawled over broken glass, to this. So we have come to the bitter truth that dare not be uttered out loud. The bitter, bitter truth that we sacrificed everything, and all we got was Kennedy II.