I tried to pay attention to what Judge Brett Kavanaugh was saying during the hearings this week. For anyone as addicted to the Supreme Court as I am, a nomination hearing is more exciting than the return of Halley’s Comet, and only slightly more common. This was one of the major reasons that I was disappointed by the Senate’s refusal to give Merrick Garland a fair hearing in 2016, along with the fact that it was petulant, mean-spirited, partisan, and on the razor-thin edge of unconstitutional.
But I’ve moved on, even if the Democrats haven’t. That became very clear the moment the gavel came down on Tuesday morning. Before the nominee even had a chance to say, “My name is Brett, and I’m a judicial conservative,” a band of screaming banshees filled the air with their guttural, desperate whelps. Oh, no, I thought, did an itinerant group of Women’s March alums get lost on their way to Pat Toomey’s office?
Alas, no, they were exactly where they’d been paid to be, these professional mourners of soon-to-be abolished reproductive rights. Knowing that Kavanaugh is a fairly sure vote to overturn Roe v. Wade if he gets on the court (I mean, yadda yadda, it’s precedent, yadda yadda, wink wink, yadda yadda, sorry Sen. Feinstein), the women and the men who support them had come to make life miserable for the nominee, even though they knew he’d be confirmed.
And the reason he’ll be confirmed is because Harry Reid decided to invoke the nuclear option back in 2013, when he ruled the Senate, and Democrats were in the majority. Angered by what he saw as GOP obstructionism in refusing to confirm President Obama’s lower court picks, Reid decided to go all Hiroshima on his colleagues and eliminate the 60-vote super-majority that was once necessary to confirm federal judicial nominees. Now, only a simple majority of one vote is needed. And that useful filibuster? It’s as dead as Kellyanne Conway’s chance of being hired as the newest panelist on “The View,” or Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ chance of getting any meal but takeout.
But the screaming banshees aren’t angry at Reid and his Democratic brethren. They’re livid that a Republican president has once again found a way to put a conservative white Christian male within arm’s length of the highest court in the land. Say what you will about him, Trump has been incredibly effective in reshaping the bench. His first pick, Neil Gorsuch, is in his 50s and has already placed himself next to Clarence Thomas as one of the two most conservative justices. If Kavanaugh, who is also in his 50s, is confirmed, he will be a formidable addition to the “starboard” side of the judicial ship.
The protesters know this. They almost make you feel sorry for them with their hand-painted signs, their defiant chants, their cute little “Handmaid’s Tale” get-ups and their Chicken Little warnings. You want to tell them that it will be OK, that it’s possible to survive even when you feel as if your civil rights are being violated, and that adversity makes you stronger. We in the pro-life movement have been getting stronger every day for the past 45 years. Now it’s time for the other side to enjoy that same sense of exhilaration as you fight against laws that violate your sense of humanity.
Because even though I didn’t get to hear much of Brett Kavanaugh’s comments on Roe v. Wade, I heard enough to convince me that he’s not as impressed with that “super-precedent” as the late, great Arlen Specter. Kavanaugh made all the right rhetorical concessions, but it’s pretty clear that if the opportunity presents itself, he will vote to overturn our generation’s Dred Scott.
Precedent is only binding on the people who don’t make it. And Kavanaugh is interviewing for a job that will put him squarely in the position of making it. The screamers know this.
There are reasons to wish that this nomination process was cleaner, fairer, not so rushed. And the spirit of Merrick Garland, ironically a good friend of Kavanaugh’s, hangs over the proceedings. I can’t deny there’s a slightly bitter taste in my mouth.
But then I see the crazy people exercising their First Amendment rights between hits of Thorazine, and all that matters is the prospect of getting one vote closer to overturning Roe.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.