Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Justice Kavanuagh Confirmed

The Senate voted on Saturday, October 6, 2018 to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the next justice to the Supreme Court of the United States.  He was sworn in later that evening, moving him quickly into the seat vacated by Justice Kennedy's retirement.  He is seated today, hearing his first cases on the court, regarding longer prison terms for repeat offenders.  With a vote of 50-48, his confirmation was one of the closest confirmation votes since 1881.

And with this process completed, I wanted to offer a few thoughts on what this status brings.
  1. It's sadly not over. - Though Justice Kavanaugh is now confirmed and seated, the controversy surrounding him is not over.  The American Bar Association is re-opening their evaluation of Judge Kavanaugh due to new information of a material nature regarding his judicial temperament, particularly in light of his fiery testimony on September 27, 2018.    Kavanaugh has also received around a dozen judicial misconduct complaints regarding the same fiery testimony, which are being forwarded on to the Supreme Court.  More extreme democrats have even raised the specter of impeachment.  President Trump has called the allegations a hoax, and is calling for tougher libel laws to potentially allow prosecution of the accusers (particularly Avenatti).  Dr. Blasey-Ford has announced, through her attorneys, that she does not plan to pursue further action against Kavanaugh, though it is a little unclear as to whether this references the mentioned impeachment action or legal action. It is also still unknown how Ms. Ramirez will proceed from here or whether she will pursue any further investigations of their accusations. The political fight over this particular issue is over, but the circumstances continue and you can guarantee this will be a sticking point in the mid-term elections.
  2. For much of the country, his tenure on the bench will have an asterisk by it. - There are very likely equal populations that are celebrating and commiserating this event.  For while many view this as a circumstance in which justice prevailed, there is an equal population that sees this as a miscarriage of justice; an incomplete investigation that found the conclusion it was hoping to find.  And how we proceed from this, recognizing this divide, is to be charitable to each other.  To recognize there are valid reasons for each side's beliefs, not ascribing the worst possible motives to everyone against you.  There are reasons to be concerned about his tenure, beyond the accusations, particularly in regard to his views on executive power and accountability.  For those supporting, Kavanaugh has been groomed for this job and has been preparing for it for his entire tenure.  His record of supporting women in clerkship's and their advancement has been noteworthy.  Beyond his guilt or innocence of the accusations, there are credible reasons for concern and celebration.  We should recognize this and stop treating the other side as one lump group that is all represented by the worst of its members.  Perhaps in doing so, we could engage in meaningful conversations with people we disagree with to understand those opposing viewpoints and recognize the validity of various aspects of the other side.
  3. There is no official finding of guilt or innocence regarding the accusations against Kavanaugh. - The FBI investigation and the hearing reached no conclusion on Kavanaugh's guilt or innocence; they merely reached a vote.  Both only provided information.  The conclusions were drawn by the Senators and have been drawn by each of us.  Ultimately, we are still at a place where the veracity of the allegations come down to each individual person's reading of the evidence, and likely feelings on the adequacy of the investigation.  As anticipated, we are still at a point where we have largely what remains a he said/she said scenario.  Barring further investigation and an actual case, we will likely never have more than this.
  4. We've seen that much has changed since the Anita Hill testimony, but much remains the same. - In many ways, much similarity in the situation.  A reluctant testimony from a woman accusing a Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct, followed by a fierce and emotional response from the nominee, just days before a scheduled vote on the nomination.  Both justices confirmed in the process.  And both women vilified to a degree for coming forward with the accusation.  Now, Dr. Blasey-Ford has not been vilified to the degree of Anita Hill, but she has still not been able to return home due to death threats.  And while the Republicans on the committee chose not to grill Dr. Ford during her testimony, to avoid the appearance of the Anita Hill testimony, the mocking waited until after hearing both sides.  Trump mocked Dr. Blasey-Ford at a rally. And while others have said he was not helping the matter, many celebrated these statements or explained them away.  We as a country have divided into "I believe him" and "I believe her" camps.  And we are recycling many of the same tired arguments that arose after the Anita Hill testimony.  You can see them on Facebook and other social media.  The overt hostility to and distrust of any allegation that does not meet specific expectations.  The downplay of various forms sexual harassment as things that should not be issues in someone's past.  "Boys will be boys."  "They're only after one thing." "It's locker room talk."  "Why would anyone not come forward immediately?"  Perhaps there may be one silver lining from the similarities.  In the 1992 election following the Anita Hill testimony, a number of women were elected to seats in the United States Senate including Senators Diane Feinstein and Patricia Murray, who are both still serving today.  That election was dubbed the Year of the Woman.  Maybe the similarities will continue in this way as well.
The question then is how do we proceed.  We definitely have to get better at addressing sexual assault and harassment allegations as a society.  We have a long way to go in this aspect.

Further, we need to treat each other better in general, especially to stop demonizing those who disagree with us.  I've seen the images going around social media now that paint the horror stories of how all of American society will crumble if Republicans are not voted into office (I wish I were exaggerating) or how America will fall into tyranny if Democrats are not elected.  Neither image is correct and we need to stop playing that game.  It's not all or nothing.  It's just us.

And we need to start voting for people over party.  For those who are willing to buck their parties expectations.  For those who will accept limits of power.  And for those who move past the grandstanding and into service.

To organize and see a constitutional convention organized to place term limits on congressmen and women.

If you are not registered to vote, there is no excuse.  Today is the last day for your registration.  Go to https://www.votetexas.gov/register-to-vote/where-to-get-an-application-2.html to register online now.

Get informed and vote November 6, 2018.

Don't vote straight party. Read up on the candidates and vote for those that best represent you. There is a world of resources on the web to find out information on the candidates and issues on your ballot, including the two below.


There's never a better year to start than now.

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