After a painfully divisive confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh, America must find a way forward. CNN Opinion asked a diverse group of commentators to weigh in with what the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process has taught us. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors.
Roxanne Jones: Kavanaugh and the savagery of America – this is us
There comes a time when life forces us to reveal the content of our character, our souls. And America’s time is now. Brett Kavanaugh is the face and the voice of America, whether we like it, or not.
Don’t deny it.
Kavanaugh’s angry and defiant attitude of entitlement is no different from the marauding men who invaded America centuries ago with a goal to create a world in their image. History tells us that anyone who stood in the way of their desires was destroyed. Makes no difference if it’s women like Christine Blasey Ford or Anita Hill, who both echo the painful experiences of millions of unseen women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed. Because to these men, women have been deemed weak creatures, to be pampered, possessed – or denigrated and destroyed – at will.
For me, Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a forgone conclusion – despite Ford’s testimony – under this current “take-no-prisoners” culture. When President Donald Trump was elected, we should have known it was game-over for compassionate politics. We gave him the power to build a Supreme Court of his liking, knowing that there would be multiple vacancies to fill during his term. And it’s unrealistic to think that any amount of division or screaming in the streets would force Trump to willingly give up his power.
This is his chance to create a world in his image.
This what untamed power looks like. Each of us is at fault when communities allow systemic hate to fester or when democracy begins to feel like dictatorship. And surely, we have failed when our sons grow up to treat women as chattel.
Let’s stop blaming politicians for our problems. For too long, we’ve held them unaccountable and been afraid or unwilling to participate in our own democracy. Only 56% of the eligible U.S. voting population bothered to cast a vote in 2016 presidential election, one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world for any highly developed democracy, according the Pew Research Center. That voting percentage drops drastically for midterm and local state elections.
We are a nation that professes to love democracy but we are unwilling to do the work it requires of us.
It’s no shock that Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court Justice. The shock, and the shame, is that we’ve allowed this to happen.
Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s Praise 107.9 FM.
Eleanor McManus: We haven’t learned a thing
A year has passed since the publication of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct sparked a global reckoning. It is therefore incredibly ironic that one year after the fall of powerful men, the US Senate will vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.
One year later, what have we learned? Nothing.
Many women have found their voices and bravely come forward with their stories. We are recognizing the systematic pattern of harassment and bringing into the light the behavior of predatory men previously relegated to whisper networks within the workplace, college campuses, and elsewhere. #MeToo has exposed patriarchal power structures that protected abusers and mired survivors in shame and embarrassment.
But one year later, despite all this, many are still doubting the victims. We are about to confirm a Supreme Court Justice who allegedly assaulted an underage woman in high school (an allegation he vigorously denies). One year later, the President of the United States has publicly mocked and bullied that woman.
One year later the clear message to our daughters and our sons is that speaking out has consequences. The powerful and entitled often continue in their positions of power, or, in one case, become a Supreme Court Justice.
To all the women who are, or will speak out, please know we are listening, we believe you. But judging by the latest example which played out over the last two weeks, clearly, lasting cultural change doesn’t happen overnight.
Eleanor McManus is co-founder of the strategic communications and crisis management firm Trident DMG. She is co-founder of Press Forward, an independent initiative whose mission is to change culture in newsrooms. She was formerly a senior producer for CNN. Follow her @eleanorsmcmanus.
Doug Heye: Republicans shouldn’t spike the football
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court brings a sigh of relief for conservatives and, for many initially skeptical of a Donald Trump presidency, is all they need to justify their support of his candidacy. And while many of Justice Kavanaugh’s decisions – and those of scores of lower court judges – will likely be ones I wholeheartedly support, I would caution my Republican brethren against spiking the football.
Our confirmation process, as Senator Susan Collins pointed out in her Friday remarks, has hit rock bottom. This process has not merely affected Judge Kavanaugh and Professor Ford. It affects all of us, leaving the country more divided than ever and dangerously close to unraveling. Indeed, as Sen. Collins noted, our Founders’ “vision of a more perfect union does not exist today, and if anything, we appear to me moving farther away from it.” In other words, in much of the country, we don’t like each other, we don’t talk to each other and we don’t trust each other. Indeed, often we no longer agree on what is truth.
In Collins’ remarks, she discussed many of the problems, but few of the solutions. Those are harder to identify, but it is clear that just as neither party shares the entire burden for how we got here, both parties will need to share responsibility for how we face this challenge.
Douglas Heye is a CNN political commentator and works in public relations. He is the former deputy chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Jen Psaki: The #MeToo movement still has a long way to go
In the aftermath of accused sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, we can safely say the #MeToo movement has not ended sexism in the United States. It would have been naive to expect it would. The movement woke people up to what far too many women have experienced, created a platform for women to share their stories and energized a younger population of activists. But the Kavanaugh confirmation is a reminder that there is a long way to go.
Electing more women to Congress next month is an important start, but Susan Collins showed, once again, that there are those who don’t understand the importance of change and the justice it would bring to countless women like Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s accuser.
The biases against victims remain, the fact that most victims of sexual assault don’t come forward remains. Changing that will take more than electoral victories in November.
Jen Psaki, a CNN political commentator, was the White House communications director and State Department spokeswoman during the Obama administration. She is vice president of communications and strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Follow her at @jrpsaki.
Scott Jennings: Nevertheless, Collins persisted
Don’t bet against Mitch McConnell.
When all is said and done, Brett Kavanaugh goes to the Supreme Court with a vote that spanned party lines and the extreme overreach during his confirmation process may have sunk two Democratic incumbents – Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Both are now in perilous positions as they fight for their political lives in red states overwhelmingly won by Donald Trump in 2016. McConnell couldn’t ask for a better outcome, and his own 2020 reelection looks sturdier by the day.
Notable in Sen. Susan Collins’ floor speech on Friday was her disdain for the left’s tactics in opposing Kavanaugh. She hammered the outside groups who wasted millions of dollars lying about Kavanaugh’s record. She was furious at Michael Avenatti’s outrageous entrance into the fray, with a client who claimed Kavanaugh was present for party where she was gang raped. And, though she defended her colleague Dianne Feinstein, Collins correctly excoriated her Democratic colleagues for opposing Kavanaugh within minutes of his announcement instead of doing their homework (the way she had clearly done).
The perfect ending to this saga was watching these liberal dudes in my Twitter feed mocking Collins for speaking too long. A female Republican senator dared to say a few words, and, because she didn’t acquiesce to the left’s demands, they wanted her to shut up.
Nevertheless, she persisted. Susan Collins is a hero for standing up to mob rule in America.
Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor, is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and former campaign adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJenningsKY.
Errol Louis: Belligerence is no barrier to a Supreme Court appointment
The hard lesson of Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to Supreme Court is that being a belligerent, openly partisan nominee is no barrier to becoming a justice. Kavanaugh’s public tantrum the week before his confirmation included attacks on Democratic senators, a baseless conspiracy theory, and a warning that could be interpreted as a threat to retaliate against his Democratic opponents.
Kavanaugh called the hearings and accusations “a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups…And as we all know in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.”
That unchecked rage, along with Kavanaugh’s snide questions about Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s drinking habits – a wisecrack for which he later apologized – mark a new low for the Supreme Court nomination process. It is strikingly reminiscent of the way President Trump has handled accusations of sexual misconduct: deny, attack, insult and threaten.
We might someday return to an atmosphere in which judicial nominees, no matter how angry they might feel about the political process, present themselves with calm, restraint and dignity. The Senate, unfortunately, has demonstrated that wild rage and personal insults are no bar to serving on the nation’s highest court.
Errol Louis is the host of “Inside City Hall,” a nightly political show on NY1, a New York all-news channel.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom: The GOP is America’s most elite fraternity
After Christine Blasey Ford’s wrenching testimony and before Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Donald Trump’s message was clear: “It’s a very scary time for young men in America.”
Teaching men that they are the true victims here would be laughable – if it wasn’t so dangerous. Because Kavanaugh’s testimony and the dismissal of Professor Ford’s, is proof that a “pernicious patriarchy“– as Cory Booker calls it – persists.
And at a time when women are speaking out, running for office, and winning in record numbers, the patriarchs are digging in their heels – only heightening the contrast between the two sides voters will consider when they go to the polls for the midterm elections in November.
The Republican Party has become perhaps the most elite fraternity in America. Join their ranks— if you are privileged and white – and the boys (and even some of the girls) will always have your back. They’ll defend to the end the cultural biases and institutions that keep the boys like them in power, and everyone else shut up and shut out.
The Republican message to our children is disturbingly clear: To our sons: This country will protect you regardless of your actions, at no cost to you. To our daughters: The pernicious patriarchy persists, at all cost to you.
This Kavanaugh episode screams out to the rest of us we must embrace a more inclusive alternative in November. We must change how we socialize our boys into men: that we should reward empathy, care and collaboration, instead of dominance, control, and aggression. To do anything else doesn’t just dehumanize our girls, it dehumanizes everyone.
Those of us who value inclusion and women’s voices have a clear message for the GOP: You will not return us to a time where women aren’t seen, valued, or heard. The Kavanaughs and Trumps of the world should be no one’s hero.
We will not forget Christine Blasey Ford. She has ignited a fire within us and we will thank her by continuing to speak truth to power. Doing so is our civic duty.
They may have confirmed their Justice, but they will not stop the flood of people rushing true justice forward.
We will vote in November and every election thereafter, until the stewards of patriarchy lose their grip on power once and for all.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the Founder and CEO of The Representation Project, and the filmmaker behind Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In, a documentary exploring America’s narrow definition of masculinity. She is the mother to four young children, including two boys, with her husband, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
Carrie Sheffield: People need to put their votes where their anger is
Some predict that Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation will inevitably tear the country further apart. Vicious-minded people are reverberating across social media and treading the streets in protest.
But this isn’t our destiny. Women (and men) who disagree should put their votes where their anger is, not further tear at our social fabric by perpetuating dehumanizing and vitriolic rhetoric.
In her Senate floor speech Friday announcing her support for Judge Kavanaugh, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said “We have forgotten the common values that bind us together as Americans,” citing our Founders’ desires for what America should be.
“Their vision of a more perfect union does not exist today, and if anything, we appear to be moving farther away from it,” Collins said.
A post-Kavanaugh lesson that should unify left and right is this: women who have been assaulted (which hasn’t been proven here) should immediately report it. We need more robust mechanisms for gathering evidence and witnesses. When women do report they’ve been a victim, we must ensure their evidence is promptly processed and justice is swiftly served.
To my anti-Kavanaugh friends: last week was National Voter Registration Day – before you cast your digital (or literal) stone, did you register to vote?
Carrie Sheffield, a conservative commentator, is the founder of Bold, a digital news network committed to bipartisan dialogue. She is also National Editor for Accuracy in Media, a citizens’ media watchdog whose mission is to promote accuracy, fairness and balance in news reporting.
Alice Stewart: Democrats’ obstruction efforts will come back to haunt them
If you take a moment to consider the real takeaway from the Kavanaugh confirmation process (a low road to the high court), it was this: elections have consequences. The reality of losing the swing vote in the United States Supreme Court to a second President Trump nominee hit Democrats hard and late. For that reason, nothing was off limits in their unsuccessful efforts to derail the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Fortunately, the silent majority of the conservative-leaning justice supporters won out.
Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault were heartbreaking and her pain was real. Unfortunately, Democrats used her trauma to launch an all-out assault on Judge Kavanaugh’s character. For the left, the ends justified the means in their effort to hold open the Supreme Court seat for their political gain.
Sen. Susan Collins was right to say the process was more like “a gutter level political campaign than a solemn occasion.”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices that would protect Roe v. Wade, LGBT rights, and oppose Citizens United.
Donald Trump promised to nominate Scalia-like justices who would defend the Constitution. That’s exactly what he’s doing. The Democrats took their obstruction efforts too far and Republicans responded will full-fledged support for Judge Kavanaugh.
Just like elections have consequences, it’s likely this vitriolic confirmation process will have negative consequences for Democrats in November.
Alice Stewart is a CNN Political Commentator and former Communications Director for Ted Cruz for President