At this moment of feverishly intense partisanship, it takes a great deal of courage to tiptoe away from your own tribe. Sen. Jeff Flake has not yet announced that he is willing to part for good; in the end, he may yet betray his professed principles and cast his vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. And yet, we should not underestimate how much strength it took for him to demand an investigation into Christine Blasey Ford’s serious allegations of sexual assault and delay the judge’s confirmation by at least a week. For now, he has proved to be one of the few people in the Senate—and perhaps one of the few in the whole country—who have insisted on taking Ford’s allegations seriously even though he actually shares most of Kavanaugh’s judicial views.
For the sake of our country, all of us should now hope that the FBI manages to uncover conclusive evidence that either supports or dispels Ford’s accusations. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. So the big risk we now face is that the same hell we have lived through for the past 48 hours will be repeated in even more farcical form next week. And that is why it’s very important to use this time to reflect seriously on how judicious people—and perhaps especially senators like Flake who profess to be conscientious conservatives—should vote if they have not made up their mind about the allegations.
It is painfully obvious that most Republican senators will vote to confirm Kavanaugh if the allegations against him are anything short of iron-clad; indeed, one shocking poll suggests that a majority of Republicans voters, and nearly half of evangelicals, would support his confirmation even if they did believe that he is guilty. It is also obvious that most Democrats will vote against his confirmation even in the unlikely case that the FBI should somehow manage to disprove Ford’s allegations; indeed, Kavanaugh’s extreme views on executive power provide a strong reason for any defender of liberal democracy to oppose his nomination. And yet, I think that one very important consideration has largely been overlooked.
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Kavanaugh is an innocent man. If that’s the case, the raw anger he displayed during Thursday’s confirmation hearing is certainly understandable. While we might wish for a public figure to keep his poise even when his reputation is being impugned, it is perfectly human to lose your countenance under such circumstances.
But even under that charitable interpretation, Kavanaugh’s performance in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee makes him eminently unfit to sit on the highest court of the land. [Continue reading…]