What’s at stake? A lot, obviously, and the punditry press is literally choked with words trying to capture one or another piece of the total picture. Center stage in recent days has been, with good reason, the way women victims of sexual assault are heard (or not) by men of power. Just off in the wings are considerations of character, privilege, judicial temperament, elitism, prep school “bro culture” entitlement, and, of course, bare-knuckle politics in an ideologically hyper-charged environment.
Social workers following the Kavanaugh drama (which they certainly should, I would argue) have reason to be keenly concerned for all these factors. But the matter of politics is primary. It is the master key that unlocks the mystery of the intensity of struggle over a single Supreme Court nominee. It’s been frequently noted that a Kavanaugh confirmation will solidify a “conservative” majority on the Supreme Court, one which can be confidently expected to curb women’s reproductive rights and support a “pro-business” agenda. Evangelicals and other abortion opponents want it desperately, candidate Trump promised it, and president Trump is doing his damnedest to deliver.
True enough, as far as it goes, but this observation doesn’t go nearly far enough. Kavanaugh is not a “conservative”; he is a radical of the far right. His judicial record suggests that he’s never met a big corporation or a powerful political actor that he didn’t like, or a worker or a regulation designed to protect the public that he did.
What Trump and the far right see in Kavanaugh is an active combatant in their anti-democratic revolution, an insurance policy against challenges to the corporate stranglehold on America. He will, given the chance, affirm the “constitutionality” of the right’s assaults on environment regulation, on civil liberties, on immigrants, on entitlements and social welfare programs, on all forms of “resistance.” And, should it eventually happen that efforts to hold the president accountable for his own kleptocratic and self-enriching behavior threaten to succeed, Kavanaugh may be needed for personal protection, justifying all of Trump’s depredations as fully within the constitutional prerogatives of presidential executive privilege.
Privilege speaks, indeed, and loudly so.