36 Short Years: Why the Kavanaugh Allegations Still Matter


Kavanaugh must explain his past to preserve his future. (U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE D.C. CIRCUIT VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)


The allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh which have unfolded over the last week are both repulsive and intriguing. The account published by Christine Blasey Ford is jarring to say the least, but it becomes even more complicated in the context of the moment in which it happened.

According to Ford, the encounter took place in 1982, during the middle of Republican darling Ronald Reagan’s first term as president, long before the politician Donald Trump, the Clery Act and Justice Clarence Thomas were in the mainstream American lexicon. The 15-year-old Ford’s silence can best be understood through this lens — a young girl assaulted in a town defined by intimidation, power and privilege, where certainly no conversations about sexual assault and how men abuse their authority were being had. Moreover, Ford does not owe anyone an explanation or a retelling of her trauma, nor do Deborah Ramirez or any of Kavanaugh’s other accusers. They ought to have their power back.

The most curious defense that Kavanaugh’s surrogates have put forth is that he was 17 years old and intoxicated and that this incident is not indicative of his character nor his professionalism. This argument relies on a few key premises: Ford is telling the truth, her assailant was Judge Kavanaugh and his character in 1982 ought not to be under a microscope now. There is something to be said that the most compelling defense by the respondent’s closest allies is that the account of the complainant is, indeed, credible. These statements lead one to question whether or not it even matters that the incident occurred.

Let me put on my MAGA hat and indulge in the problematic viewpoint that Ford’s claims ought not to be considered. Kavanaugh is an accomplished man, a Yale University and Yale Law graduate, a loyal public servant and an intelligent, highly-regarded judge by the Washington elite. He also allegedly tried to sexually assault a teenager two years his junior with another student while drunk at a party. Operating from the viewpoint that Ford’s claims do not matter, one ought to trivialize all of his accomplishments around this time. Kavanaugh’s clear academic excellence at Georgetown Prep acted as a pipeline for him to continue his elitist and problematic practices at Yale. To recognize his rise to success is also to acknowledge that his actions had consequences. The assault did not occur in a vacuum.

In order to understand Kavanaugh’s personal philosophies and achievements, one cannot disqualify that night in the summer of 1982 because he was, at the same time, among the brightest of his peers. The political spin of Washington, D.C., does not allow the GOP establishment to cherry-pick Kavanaugh’s exceptional talents and ignore his grave misdeeds. That night tells the American people everything they need to know about Brett Kavanaugh — a young, privileged man who made a choice which traumatized a young girl (she has the therapist notes to prove it) and did not pay the consequences.

Kavanaugh supporters may still assert that his vetting to become a Supreme Court Justice should not take his past, or selective parts of his past, into account. Clearly, it wouldn’t matter to the United States Senators in the majority who so desperately want a conservative-leaning court that they will sacrifice morals and justice — the very thing we expect to be a top priority for those men and women in the highest court in the land. What else ought we to expect from a Congress who fails to check a president who calls women “fat pigs,” has several sexual misconduct allegations of his own against him, and has yet to denounce the sexual predators he maintains in his inner circle, none more glaring than Kavanaugh’s successor, Rob Porter?

If there is one thing the Republican establishment uses to deflect their wrongdoings, it is time. The revisionist history that the Obama Administration destabilized the Middle East and North Africa ignores the fact that Kavanaugh, his cronies in the Senate and the imperialist-turned-painter-in-chief George W. Bush waged  nonsensical wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with more cons than pros. The “Access Hollywood” tape did nothing but confirm what Americans already knew about Mr. Trump, but he was quickly forgiven by his Republican colleagues and the Republican National Committee due to steady poll numbers and the 24-hour news cycle, which is not conducive to protecting survivors of sexual assault.

However, it appears time may not be on Kavanaugh’s side, either. As Ford finalized negotiations to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, Deborah Ramirez, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s, accused him of sexual assault during the 1983–1984 school year. President Trump led the defense this week at the United Nations, stating that the victim should not be believed because she was “intoxicated” and “all messed up.” Perhaps Mr. Trump should look up the definition of “consent” and realize that he, in fact, just furthered Ramirez’s claim that she was sexually assaulted by his Supreme Court nominee.

We have seen this movie and we know how it ends (quite literally; see: “Confirmation,” starring Kerry Washington, about the Anita Hill hearings). The Republican establishment will hear Kavanaugh’s side of the story and listen to his accusers if it serves their interests. Like Hill, the public, the press and the gatekeepers of power will mandate Ford to relive her trauma in front of her assailant’s closest allies and bitter rivals, not to mention in the very city in which it took place those 36 short years ago. As for Ramirez, it looks unlikely the Senate Republicans will allow her voice to be amplified with the same spectacle and attention afforded (much to their chagrin) to Ford.

As her Senate appearance approaches, voters are now believing Ford’s account of the assault, which will undoubtedly mobilize Republican efforts both to hear her out and to paint her account as a false recollection. While time has served to exile Ford from the place she once called home and to attempt to elevate Kavanaugh to the highest legal prestige in the country will now illuminate the decades of pain, shame and consequence these prep school boys-turned-kingmakers have managed to avoid.