Never Trump conservative Erick Erickson, whose previous forays into questions of judicial character assassination include labeling David Souter “a goat-fucking child molester,” didn’t just cheer Kavanaugh’s confirmation. He used it as an occasion to flirt with outright Donald Trump support.
He wasn’t alone. Take Nathaniel Blake, who declared himself “radicalized” in The Federalist.
“I now support Trump because the Democratic Party and its media allies are controlled by people who view conservatives not as political opponents to be voted down, but as enemies to be personally destroyed,” he declared. “They and their media allies smeared a universally respected judge with an impeccable record as a serial sexual predator on evidence that would not have justified an indictment.”
If one presumes Brett Kavanaugh innocent of the allegations against him—a question-begging assumption in some, but not all, of these accounts—is it once again a feel-good proposition to be a loyal Republican?
I say no.
Although David French of National Review is not wavering in his Never Trump convictions, his account of the Kavanaugh confirmation battle is the best place to begin for the strongest version of the narrative that I contest.
French’s essay in The Atlantic, “The Wounds That Won’t Heal,” divided Americans on “matters as deep and profound as human nature, the relationship between men and women, and the fundamental, overlapping identities of wife, husband, father, mother, man, and woman. And the conflict unfolded in the absence of a common moral language and a common moral framework. It took place against increasingly different views of the nature and virtue of American culture itself.”
I offered a sharply contrasting assessment in my own analysis, “The Divide Over Kavanaugh Isn’t as Big as It First Appears,” where I argued that the battle divided strong partisans more than typical Americans and that most people on different sides of the fight agree about more than they imagine and share similar values despite reaching different conclusions.
For all the details, read our respective pieces. Here I want to contest a more narrow claim: that the right and left are riven by a stark value difference wherein the right is committed to the presumption of innocence and due process for those accused of wrongdoing, while the left with its ascendant ethos of “believe women” or “believe survivors” stands for “a flipping of the burden of proof.”
As a civil libertarian, I’ve long been committed to the fair treatment of those accused of wrongdoing and concerned about the imprudence of denying due process. In many ways, the confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nomination are a poor setting to gauge commitment to those values. It is unlike any other “job interview” in its effect on the both the participant and the country, as senators debate whether to confer lifetime power on a nominee, and yet while it’s not a criminal trial, the nominee must answer accusations under penalty of perjury before an audience of tens of millions.
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