Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The entire Brett Kavanaugh debacle is a disgrace to politics

Brett Kavanaugh’s potential rise to the Supreme Court of United States (SCOTUS) was massively derailed when it transpired the Democrats were in possession of a sexual abuse allegation against him. The letter, written by Dr Christine Blasey Ford, stated that Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party when they were both in high school. A number of further allegations have since followed, as has one of the darker chapters of politics I’ve ever seen.

This is not a piece on who I believe is innocent or guilty. For what it’s worth, I watched both parties testify, and I found them both fairly believable, but that shouldn’t matter. It’s unlikely we’ll ever really know the truth one way or the other. I know it’s easy to say, but emotion shouldn’t weigh into something as important as a sexual abuse inquiry. That’s why I’ve found the whole set-up to be incredibly disgraceful – it has truly been abhorrent to watch.

Serious allegations ought to be considered seriously

Both sides have trumpeted the idea that all that matters is the truth, but their actions don’t really back that up. Democrats were sent the letter on July 30, and held onto it until September 13, when it was most politically convenient as a weapon to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation – something they made clear that they intended to do as soon as 23 minutes after his nomination was announced, no matter what.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have fallen over themselves to not look nasty or like they hate women, especially given the numerous allegations against President Trump, and so they have failed to give these claims the analysis that they deserve. Serious allegations ought to be considered seriously – instead, the Republicans seemed to be more interested in her fear of flying than anything else.

It is telling that opinion polls show that voters tend to believe one side or the other based more on what benefits the political party they support, rather than any consideration of evidence. Polls by YouGov and Reuters/Ipsos found that roughly two thirds of Democrats believe the allegations against Kavanaugh, while roughly the same percentage of Republicans do not.

Both Ford and Kavanaugh’s lives will be ruined by this hearing, and that’s because it has become a circus of smears

Look online at any discussion of the confirmation and the partisan lines are drawn too. People have cropped images of Ford smiling or Kavanaugh looking cross from the hearing and compiled them in memes (‘looks a bit happy to be an assault victim’ or ‘here’s a face that could be a rapist’) that they think proves the argument in its entirety. Ford has been mocked for her memory lapses, her ‘childlike’ way of speaking, her ‘crocodile tears’, and for (worst of all) being a woman. Kavanaugh, meanwhile, has picked up criticism for his composure and anger in the face of the allegations, and for being a white man. Both Ford and Kavanaugh’s lives will be ruined by this hearing, and that’s because it has become a circus of smears, more interested in denying or allowing Trump a SCOTUS Justice than anything else.

It’s because these allegations are so serious that they deserve to be taken seriously; instead, we’re being treated to a political show trial where all that matters is how the end result impacts on the Republicans or the Democrats. I think it’s completely disgusting to use a sexual abuse claim, genuine or not, as a weapon against people you disagree with – it’s so profoundly unethical, it makes my skin crawl.

We owe it to sexual abuse survivors to take what they say seriously (and that doesn’t just mean blind acceptance), and not use their stories as tools to an end. Have we now reached a point where we’re so polarised as a society that we’re more than happy to destroy people’s characters and lives in order to ensure that our team wins? I certainly hope not. I hope people look at the Kavanaugh confirmation, realise the potential dangers of this way of acting, and strive for a society where the pursuit of truth is paramount.

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