Why is the Kavanaugh hearing so divisive and belligerent?
Human sexual relations are complicated, biologically driven, consumed with passion and tension on several levels, and constantly evolving. We stumble through this learning process when we are young and stupid. Our institutions have done a poor job teaching us how to understand this development, and the proliferation of sex as entertainment and marketing forms a poor guide for the expectations of young men and women. Marriage and relationship problems centering on poor communication and understanding have supported the psychology profession for years.
As women have risen in academic and professional circles our social ineptness has collided with the economic rise of women. This is why the Weinstein allegations and the resulting #MeToo movement were so stunning. The victimization of women by the powerful and celebrities was illuminating. The first Weinstein accuser was followed by several more notables like Matt Lauer, actors like Kevin Spacey, and Fox celebrities Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Eric Bolling. CBS’s Moonves is a recent casualty. Women felt empowered by the revelations to tell their own stories, and they poured with the force of a ruptured dam.
The #MeToo movement was parallel to politics. Perpetrators came from both parties. Caught up in the passions and momentum of its genesis it failed to clarify what constituted abuse. The original cases were clear, but Aziz Ansari was outed by a date that had already engaged in sexual acts and wanted to stop. Al Franken was accused of groping, but it was unclear if it was clownish behavior. Where would abuse end and boorish behavior begin? Should a boorish act at an office party from 20 years ago end a career today? Unless we can distinguish assault from obnoxious and inappropriate behavior we will end up preferring sexual segregation.
The Kavanaugh hearing weaponized the movement. Instead of handling the 36-year-old allegation in private in a timely manner it was manipulated to achieve maximum political advantage; blocking a critical appointment at all cost and providing an opportunity for massive fundraising. In the course of this strategy the most fundamental differences in the two parties took clear form, amplified by the passions of the #MeToo movement.
The hearing became a perfect storm of passionate social change, identity politics, and political hostilities. #MeToo was abducted by The Resistance. Democrats sought payback for Merrick Garland. Their sacred issues were threatened as the barbarians stormed their temple of the Supreme Court. Their greatest existential fears of the Trump administration required every able body with every weapon available to man the wall.
The Republicans and conservatives recoiled as every civilized norm was jettisoned. Screaming bystanders were allowed to interrupt the hearings. Unsubstantiated claims were believed without any requirement of proof or corroboration. Nothing would appease the Democrats other than Kavanaugh’s withdrawal. Confirming Kavanaugh now became important to stop the political scorched earth tactics of the Democrats. His immense qualifications became secondary to both sides.
The damage is done. Future appointees have taken notice. Kavanaugh is damaged even if he is confirmed. This is not democracy in action. It is politics at its worst.