Our students are watching the civics lesson of our time, and they have a keen sense of fairness. The drama they see playing out over the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court affects not only how they view politics, but their lives and sense of safety—especially if they have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault.
We heard the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford on Thursday, and they offered very different accounts of Kavanaugh’s conduct as a prep school student. This hits home with millions of young men and young women, some of whom could empathize completely with Dr. Ford because they or their friends are survivors of sexual assault. They watched Dr. Ford’s calm retelling of what happened and Kavanaugh’s belligerent denials.
The FBI is now investigating the allegations—something many people, most notably, Dr. Ford—have been requesting for a month. Tellingly, each time Kavanaugh was asked during the Senate hearing whether he would ask for an FBI inquiry to clear his name, he wiggled and filibustered out of answering the question.
The issue is what the U.S. Senate will do with the information it already has and any additional intel the FBI gathers. The choice senators make will tell our students exactly who these elected leaders are, who they listen to and serve, and what they stand for.
If the senators say they believe Dr. Ford, but don’t think it was Kavanaugh who attacked her, then they are actually not believing her. They are in effect saying that what she saw and experienced in those awful minutes and the trauma and shame she endures matter less to them than their own interpretation of it.
If they believe Dr. Ford but confirm Kavanaugh anyway, rationalizing that the attack happened decades ago and is now irrelevant, senators are telling every survivor of sexual assault: We simply do not care.
I don’t know which of these would be worse. Both are equally dismissive, equally terrible messages to send young people about whose experiences and voices have merit and whose do not.
But here’s what I do know: Kavanaugh’s demeanor last week…his sense of entitlement…his snarling anger and sarcasm…his outright hostility, nastiness, disrespect…and his blatant hyper-partisanship should be disqualifying. In fact, no matter what the FBI finds, Kavanaugh’s lies throughout his confirmation, while under oath, should be disqualifying in and of themselves.
Do senators actually want to tell the nation that the conduct we witnessed last week is not only acceptable, but worth rewarding with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, a position that carries more power than any other government office?
Do they want to declare that despite what we saw and heard, this man should hand down decisions that will affect the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?
Some people have said they empathize with the difficult decision senators must make. These folks see it as a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” choice. When it comes down to it, however, the decision is pretty simple:
Senators cannot acknowledge Dr. Ford’s truth without condemning Kavanaugh’s lies.
Demand courage from our senators. Call them. Write them. Shout from the streets and rooftops. Send an old-fashioned telegram. Bang on every door of every senator. Thank them if they believe Christine Blasey Ford and reject Brett Kavanaugh.
On the other hand, hold them accountable for their callous hypocrisy if they say they believe Dr. Ford, but then accept Kavanaugh and elevate him to the Supreme Court. If the Senate does not stand for truth, then it’s our responsibility to make sure in the next election we send people who better represent our values to take their places.
Our students are learning about what this country stands for, what fairness means, and what justice should demand.