The spectacular calving of a glacier is not a spontaneous process. What seems, at first, to be a single, instantaneous episode is, in reality, the culmination of years of small fractures, faults, and crevasses forming and degrading the stability of the ice before the calving occurs. Civic institutions work the same way. When they fall, it is the result of many small events over several years that weaken the fundamental structures.
Yet within just one generation, Americans have had box seats as this phenomenon has played out with the way we confirm judges to the United States Supreme Court. A once serious, respected, and honest process has been weakened to the point of fracture by a collusion between a self-serving, ideologically driven media class and an even more mercenary, power-hungry political class.
Since Robert Bork’s ill-fated hearings in 1987, Americans have watched as the process of confirming a conservative Supreme Court justice transform into a scorched earth, take-no-prisoners, gladiatorial bloodsport. Any regard for the solemnity of the process, evidentiary standards, basic propriety, decorum, and common decency has been jettisoned in the name of political expediency.
Even worse, we’ve come to expect it.
Kavanaugh Protests Reached a New Low
We all remember last year’s Brett Kavanaugh hearings. The public watched a rank and partisan miscarriage of civic processes and human decency unfold as blatantly political and uncorroborated hearsay was used to discredit a man whose public record, personal accomplishments, and credibility by any reasonable standard should have been considered beyond reproach.
“Should have been” is the operative phrase here. During the Kavanaugh farce, we saw, all too clearly, that with the tribal divisions in the country have reached a fever pitch. With a moral panic created by the #MeToo movement and the full force of a media happy to fan the flames, “should have been” was never going to happen.
Instead, we witnessed an accuser—lacking any corroborative evidence and lacking detailed memory of dates, places, people and times and refusing to provide any other evidence—besmirching a good man, all because she was abetted by an ideologically motivated media and power-thirsty political class.
Despite this attempted smear, Kavanaugh was confirmed.
The Kavanaugh confirmation circus of 2018 cemented the opposition methods used during the Thomas confirmation circus of 1991. In particular, the use of unsupported, unverifiable, and incredibly non-credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault from decades past against men whose public and private lives showed zero evidence that such behavior is believable.
The Bork confirmation hearing introduced the smearing, political sensationalizing, and rewriting of a man’s legal and academic work. As bad as that was, at least it had some basis in the written word. The Thomas confirmation introduced the besmirching of a man’s personal integrity and reputation without any evidence beyond what Anita Hill had to say.
The Left’s “new normal”: Even after confirmation, judges will be open to investigation after investigation based on spurious allegations of past misconduct.
The Kavanaugh confirmation not only cemented these odious practices as par for the course with regards to conservative nominees, but it also introduced the indictment of justifiable indignation in the face of such attacks and the transformation of the confirmation process into a perjury trap.
Thomas offered a passionate “high-tech lynching” defense of his reputation, which was enough to save the day without opposition. Decades later, Kavanaugh’s defense of his name and honor, replete with evidence in the form of datebooks, times and names, was used against him. “You see!” they cried. “Look at how angry he is! He obviously lacks judicial temperament.”
They put Kavanaugh in a thresher and proceeded to criticize him for daring to fight back. This is to be the new normal for the Left. This is the new normal they’re hoping the body politic will expect and embrace.
An Endless Opposition Campaign
Worse still, the Kavanaugh confirmation introduced yet another new arrow into the leftist confirmation quiver, which, if not actively addressed and resisted by Republicans, will become cultural and political standard operating procedure from now on: the extension of the confirmation hearings beyond the hearings themselves and into a confirmed justice’s term.
The New York Times’ recent journalistic malpractice and resultant immediate knee-jerk, and predictable, calls for impeachment from the peanut gallery signal a clear sea change in the way the media and leftist political classes are attempting, once again, to shift the public perception and attitudes towards conservative Supreme Court confirmations.
The fact that confirmation hearings are contentious, scorched-earth events is disturbing enough, but what’s more troubling is that the events of the past week have shown us that there is an attempt to shift the cultural perception of the confirmation hearings into mere springboards for future impeachment hearings.
The media and Left are moving to turn the entire confirmation process into a large perjury trap. By shifting the focus away from a judge’s rulings and judicial philosophy and instead concentrating the hearings on murky questions about that individual’s past, the chances of honest mistakes and failed memories allow for the possibility of perjury charges to stay open—in perpetuity.
Thus, even after confirmation, judges will be open to investigation after investigation. And these investigations won’t be about their actions on the bench, of course, but for pedantic details possibly misremembered during their confirmation hearings. This threatens devastating damage to our cultural understanding of the confirmation process and poses an obvious structural threat to our Republic as sitting Supreme Court justices essentially become subject to the political whims and machinations of political players.
Further, this focus on impeachment for accusation alone cheapens the meaning of impeachment. Just as they did with the terms “racism,” “sexism,” and “rape,” leftists have been screaming “impeachment” at the top of their lungs for so long and at so many shadows that what was once understood to be a solemn process, reserved for the most serious of crimes, has come to be seen as a cheap political rallying cry by the bulk of the body politic.
Inaction Invites More Outrages
But the blame for this sad state of affairs doesn’t fall solely on the American political Left and its media allies. The Right had an opportunity to fight back and didn’t.
In the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the Republicans could have filed perjury charges against Christine Blasey Ford. Instead, they meekly hoped the story would just go away. The Republicans let the story fester, allowing the media and the Left to set the terms of debate. The media madness of the past week or so is a tribute to Republicans’ fecklessness.
What’s worse, by their continued inaction, Republican officials allow the Left to further degrade the public perception of the confirmation process itself. At this point, the public expects and accepts the Supreme Court nomination as farce when a conservative nominee is center stage, replete with scandalous unverifiable allegations, wild claims, and all the other trappings the Left has introduced into the once-solemn process.
Ultimately, the most important factor in the survival of institutions is the perception of the public of their legitimacy. As the Left works to undermine most of the civic structures in the United States, if the Right cannot respond, it will, in the long run, pay dearly as those institutions crumble. And when our civic institutions crumble, it will be because we had a media and a left-leaning political class all too eager to fracture them, but even more contemptible, we have a right-leaning political class too fearful and near-sighted to defend them.