Brett Kavanaugh was con­firmed as a Supreme Court Justice by the U.S. Senate on Sat­urday. Wiki­media Commons

By a 50 – 48 majority, the U.S. Senate voted on Sat­urday to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, a Yale Law School graduate and a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge of 12 years, to the Supreme Court of the United States. Kavanaugh was sworn in that evening and has already assumed his place on the bench. He is Pres­ident Donald Trump’s second appointee to the Court. 

Kavanaugh’s approval was fraught with con­tro­versy. Over the course of his con­fir­mation hearings, three women brought forth alle­ga­tions of sexual mis­conduct from Kavanaugh’s high school and college years, throwing his con­fir­mation, char­acter, and career into question. 

The accu­sa­tions prompted Kavanaugh to share his side of the story during an interview with Fox News, an unprece­dented move for a judicial appointee. Tes­ti­monies before the U.S. Senate Judi­ciary Com­mittee from Kavanaugh’s primary accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, and Kavanaugh himself were tele­vised nationally. The saga cul­mi­nated in an FBI inves­ti­gation into the claims, which proved to be a deciding factor for several senators.

As the hearings unfolded, Pro­fessor of History Brad Birzer said he doubted the Senate would confirm Kavanaugh. 

“After I watched Ford testify, I thought he was done,” he said. “And then when he tes­tified, I thought he saved it. He did a great job in his defense that Thursday afternoon. If you can’t be angry about having your rep­u­tation demol­ished, then you can’t be angry about any­thing. That’s the most per­sonal thing there is. His anger was totally justified.” 

The alle­ga­tions follow the rise of the #MeToo movement, which has spot­lighted sexual abuse and called out prominent figures for inap­pro­priate conduct.

Deon Clai­borne, a lec­turer of soci­ology, said that while the hearings sparked drama, they also helped to con­tinue drawing attention to an issue embedded in American culture. 

“If this nom­i­nation process points to any­thing, it’s the need to have real, honest con­ver­sa­tions about sexual assault in this country because it happens and it’s under­re­ported,” she said. “Whether it’s framed as the #MeToo movement or just a groundswell of women who want justice for the harassment and assault that they face in this country, that’s a force to be reckoned with.” 

On the other hand, Lec­turer of History Dedra Birzer warned that the Kavanaugh hearings high­light the pit­falls of #MeToo. She said the “believe all women” mantra dis­re­gards due process, which is some­thing that par­tic­u­larly con­cerns her as a mother of boys. She added that women have a unique role in defending the rep­u­tation and char­acter of the men in their lives. 

“The anti-Kavanaugh bloc asks, ‘What if Ford was your daughter?’’ Dedra Birzer said. “But the other side of that is, ‘What if Kavanaugh is your son? Or your husband? Or your dad?’ Imagine you’re watching those tes­ti­monies and seeing the pain in his face. The left said from the beginning they’d do whatever it takes to take him down and they did. They let no strand of decency get in their way.”

With a gen­er­ation of Supreme Court rulings at stake, con­tention was inevitable. The ten­sions quickly gave way to an outcry across the media and internet, violent protests, and even death threats to Kavanaugh, Ford, and sen­ators. Assistant Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Adam Car­rington said the sheer nas­tiness of the ordeal sur­passed even the hearings of Robert Bork, an appointee of former pres­ident Ronald Reagan, and Clarence Thomas, whom former Pres­ident George H.W. Bush appointed. 

“I think the division in our country is deeper now than it was back then, but I also think that social media ratchets up the hatred and vitriol as well,” he said. “If you read the Fed­er­alist Papers, espe­cially those by Madison and Hamilton, they want the people to rule and to rule rea­sonably. And that doesn’t mean you can’t be pas­sionate and be spirited, but it does mean that reason is ruling and spirit­edness is in its service.”

Already, some on the left have called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment, but Car­rington dis­misses this as mere rhetoric. 

“There is basi­cally zero chance that he will be removed from office,” he said. 

Instead of seeking Kavanaugh’s impeachment, Car­rington sug­gested that a more prudent route would be to return to the Supreme Court’s original intent rather than viewing it as a political tool. 

“Some people are arguing that Kavanaugh will buckle down and be even more Repub­lican or con­ser­v­ative while others say that he might try to ingra­tiate himself to his oppo­nents by becoming more mod­erate,” Car­rington said. “My hope is that he does neither. I hope he rules on the basis of the law and that he, like Fed­er­alist 78 says, exer­cises ‘neither force nor will but merely judgement.’” 

Brad Birzer offered a hopeful perspective.

“I think a lot of times, because we haven’t seen a trend before in our life­times, we tend to think it’s going to keep going this way,” he said. “But if we look at American history, we’ve had these kinds of radical moments that we’ve gotten out of. Things may keep declining in terms of our social rela­tions with one another, but history shows that we get out of things. Amer­icans come to their senses.”