On the 6th of October 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the ninth and final Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, “the highest court of the land”, hours after being confirmed by the Senate. Despite all the controversy surrounding his name, the 53-year-old Conservative judge somehow managed to get the upper house’s crucial approval. The Trump-nominated former U.S. Court of Appeals judge will soon hold the most influential gavel in the United States of America. The question remains: how on earth did such quarrel, uncertainty, and contest lead to such a nation-dividing decision?
Simply, Kavanaugh won because the Republican party has Senate majority. In reality, it is not so simple. Currently, the Senate has a 51-49 conservative tip, and if all Republicans voted for Kavanaugh like they are ‘supposed to’, Kavanaugh should have gotten an affirmed nod. Again, however, his appointment was not so straightforward. The event would have been the ideal Supreme Court Justice vote if the multiple allegations against him were not issued. Of the three major sexual misconduct allegations against him, the most prominent one is Christine Blasey Ford’s. The psychology professor claims to have been sexually assaulted by the nominee in high school, nearly 36 years ago. She gave a testimony in one of the numerous Senate hearings, which was described as ‘heart-wrenching, painful, and compelling’ by Susan Collins, Republican Senator from Maine.
Another chief player in the debate was the claim of Deborah Ramirez, one of Kavanaugh’s Yale University classmates, who also alleges suspicious behavior on his part. Lastly, Julie Swetnick claims the judge was present when she was gang-raped in 1982, as well as shedding light on his problematic drinking habits.
Of course, it is unsurprising that Kavanaugh denied all the allegations, calling them an “orchestrated and calculated political hit” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” in his intense testimony. As a result of the sexual misconduct claims, the final confirmation vote was delayed one week for the FBI to carry out an investigation regarding the credibility of these allegations. Unfortunately, the investigation was not of significant aid to the resolution of the issue, and, in Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein’s words, was a “very limited investigation.”
And just like any other political uproar, the public took sides. On the more popular side of the argument, countless protests took place in the capital, emphasizing the impact of campaigns like the #MeToo movement, along with creating new ones, like the #WhyIDidn’tReport movement. Throughout the past couple of weeks, protesters took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with Kavanaugh’s nomination. Supposedly, Kavanaugh’s confirmation undermines sexual misconduct as a crime, along with signifying that the Ford, Ramirez, and Swetnick cases are untrue and therefore unimportant. During his private induction ceremony, Kavanaugh’s opponents rioted at the doors of the Supreme Court, holding up signs that read ‘Kava-Nope’ and ‘#Cancel Kavanaugh’. When it came to the Senate hearings, this point of view was represented by the Democratic party, Kavanaugh’s attackers, where the argument was centered around the imperativeness of respecting and believing sexual assault survivors, deeming Kavanaugh unfit for the job.
On the other hand, Kavanaugh’s supporters assert that these are only allegations and that there is no legitimate evidence to back up these claims. Moreover, proponents keep alluding to the judge’s record on the job, which has been frequently described as impeccable. This point of view was logically represented by the Republicans, rebutting Democrat claims of Kavanaugh’s inadequacy, along with attacking the accusers with detailed questioning in efforts to undermine their testimonies. In addition, this is what President Trump affirmed, even mocking Ford’s testimony at one point. However, as crude as politics may seem, the Senators have the final say. Did public activity influence Senators’ opinions? Definitely.
And at the center of all of this, lie female Republican Senators. Pressured by the public majority to vote against Kavanaugh for the sake of female solidarity, but also pushed to vote for him by their respective party, female Senators, like Susan Collins, were in the spotlight. Collins, though deeply touched by Ford’s testimony, voted for Kavanaugh citing her belief that he was not her assailant. In the end, all conservatives voted for the nominee, except Lisa Murkowski, who was so torn between the two the public and the party, she refrained from choosing sides altogether and plainly voted ‘present’.
Lastly, an unusual circumstance in this entire ordeal is the speed at which it happened. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the top priority in the Republican agenda was to appoint Kavanaugh as soon as possible. Their seemingly irrational rush was actually a carefully mandated political move. In a couple of days from now, on November 6th, the United States will hold the midterm elections, in which the Republicans can lose their majority government in both houses of Congress. With that in mind, they had to appoint a conservative Justice before the potential deprivation of their vital advantage. And of course, the liberals tried to slow down the process, indeed without success. This way, both Mitch McConnell and Trump can finally sleep soundly knowing Kavanaugh is firmly in place.
An unusual circumstance in this entire ordeal is the speed at which it happened. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the top priority in the Republican agenda was to appoint Kavanaugh as soon as possible. Their seemingly irrational rush was actually a carefully mandated political move. On November 6th, the United States will hold the midterm elections, in which the Republicans can lose their majority government in both houses of Congress. With that in mind, they had to appoint a conservative Justice before the potential deprivation of their vital advantage. And of course, the Liberals tried to slow down the process, indeed without success. This way, both Mitch McConnell and Trump can finally sleep soundly knowing Kavanaugh is firmly in place.
As October 6th approached, tension increased and ambiguity filled the Capitol. Yet, as expected, the Republicans won 50-48, and Kavanaugh was indeed confirmed. Despite Lisa Murkowski’s abstinence and Republican Steve Daines’ absence, the Republicans clinched a two-vote margin victory with the aid of liberal Senator Joe Manchin, who voted ‘yes’ to Kavanaugh despite his party’s stance. Now, the Supreme Court is one of a conservative majority with a 5-4 lead. The nine Justices, who are appointed for life, are responsible for interpreting the law with meticulous regard and respect to the Constitution, meaning they can change any law at any time if it is rendered unconstitutional. Their immense jurisdiction cannot be underestimated, as they can change the dynamic of the country, and possibly even U.S. relations with other countries, with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Notably, President Trump has reaffirmed the Court’s status by appointing two conservative Justices in the past two years alone. This feat will set the tone for the Court for decades, tilting it in his party’s favor for the present and the future, even after the four-year constraint of his presidency. At the moment, the oldest standing Justice is liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the age of 85, but democrats need not worry just yet, as she aims to retire five years from now. Trump will not have another chance to appoint another conservative Justice – tipping the Court to be even more conservative – because he will not be president at that time… Or will he?