Kavanaugh’s on the bench, but extreme right can still be defeated
A protester holds a gavel with a picture of Brett Kavanaugh in New York, Thursday, Oct. 4. Hundreds of people rallied in front of Trump Tower then walked to Times Square to protest Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh. | Seth Wenig / AP

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the scandalous process leading up to it mark the breach of yet another democratic norm by the Trump administration and his Republican enablers in Congress.

The disappearance of even the pretense of an independent judiciary is an alarming development. It is the latest in a steady stream of assaults on democracy which, together, are propelling the country toward a watershed moment:

Separation of powers—breached.

Due process and prohibitions on illegal detention—breached.

Protection from presidential corruption by the Emoluments Clause—breached.

Commitment to press freedom and an independent media—breached.

The Kavanaugh confirmation is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by the right wing to consolidate an ideological majority on the Supreme Court and stock the lower courts with like-minded justices. Obsessed with this objective, the GOP, in an unprecedented display of raw and arrogant power, obstructed the seating of President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, in the final year of his presidency.

This new right-wing majority is now prepared to enshrine the GOP and Trump’s legislative agenda and violations of democracy. The court will take aim at a range of rights and policies, beginning with decades of progress on workers’ rights, women’s rights (including Roe v. Wade), civil rights, LGBTQ rights, disability, immigrant, and consumer rights, environmental protections, Obamacare, and more.

They could repeal through court rulings what the GOP cannot repeal through legislation. For example, the repeal of the entire New Deal legislative edifice is not too farfetched.

In effect, the Supreme Court is now a direct governing arm of the Republican Party. This is about raw power and control of every branch of government and judiciary in the face of changing demographics and politics and the erosion of support for right-wing ideas.

Pundits blame this development on political polarization. But Democrats and Republicans are not equally to blame for what has ensued. From the very beginning, the right has driven this process.

The Judiciary Committee hearing with Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh riveted the nation. It exposed the deep corruption, immorality, and misogyny of the Trump administration and Republican leadership. It exposed the real Kavanaugh as a pathological liar and perjurer.

The country saw him for what he is: a son of wealth and privilege, the product of elite private schools and social circles, and an operative of the corporate ruling class, the Republican Party, and their right-wing networks. Kavanaugh exploded in a fit of rage because his class, white, male entitlement had been challenged. His outburst reflected the worst of capitalist ruling class culture.

The nation is at a crossroads, but the #MeToo movement has created a new atmosphere where power and privilege are being challenged. | Michael Brochstein / Sipa via AP

Trump, by contrast, attempted to portray Kavanaugh as the victim of a #MeToo movement gone wild. His vicious mocking of Dr. Ford at the Mississippi rally, and the “uproarious laughter” of the crowd (reminiscent of the behavior of Kavanaugh and Mark Judge during the alleged attempted rape of Dr. Ford), the chants of “lock her up,” and the GOP smear campaign against those Kavanaugh sexually assaulted—all were blatant appeals to misogyny and white male resentment. They were meant to throw dust in the eyes of working-class white males who have nothing in common with the corporate ruling class.

#MeToo and the future

The Ford and Kavanaugh hearings share many parallels with those of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings from 1991, but we live in a different political moment. But since then, a sustained struggle against the right wing and for equality has led to profound shifts in public opinion. The ideological foundations of male supremacy, white supremacy, and class privilege are being challenged.

Most importantly, the #MeToo movement is shaking up politics and culture, starting with the massive outpouring of women-led protests after the 2016 elections. Sexual assault survivors have courageously shared their painful experiences, powerful men who committed sexual assault have been toppled, and a record number of women are running for office.

“This moment is a recognition that women and sexual assault survivors are putting this issue before the country and will not go away. Regardless of what happens, this movement will continue to build,” said Ana Maria Archila, one of the sexual assault survivors who confronted Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in the elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings.

Nation at a crossroads

The nation is at a historic crossroads. Powerful and determined ascendant movements are demanding change, but they confront desperate resistance from social forces struggling to hold onto their power. Polarization and clashes between contending political and class forces are sharpening; old political alignments are giving way, and new ones are emerging.

It is a moment when political processes have broken down under right-wing assault and been corrupted by a handful of billionaires. Government institutions and agencies are being dismantled, rendered ineffective, or remade to nakedly serve right-wing and corporate interests.

The credibility of democratic institutions, including Congress, which is already limited in representative power, have been greatly damaged. Confidence in them has been undermined, creating fertile ground for cynicism.

The Supreme Court has lost credibility, starting with the 2000 judicial coup that delivered the White House to George W. Bush. Kavanaugh’s ascension, though, signals a new depth in its descent. The court has been corrupted and stripped of any appearance of independence, and two sitting justices stand accused of sexual assault and harassment.

The Supreme Court played a similar obstructionist and partisan role at other politically polarized moments in our country’s history, most notably during the Jeffersonian era, the period just before the Civil War, and during the Roosevelt administration in the Great Depression. It took unprecedented political and social upheavals, such as the Second American Revolution that abolished slavery, to move the court.

It is now clear that the Supreme Court will not be a place where working people and victims of discrimination find redress for the foreseeable future. Ousting the right wing through mass electoral activity grows in importance and ultimately holds the key to changing the court itself.

Trump corruption, Russian collusion threads

The level of corruption pervading the Trump administration, the extreme concentration of wealth in the country, and growth of the right wing were all on display during the Kavanaugh confirmation process.

In an illuminating Twitter thread, author and legal analyst Seth Abramson laid bare the conspiracy to impose Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. It began prior to the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who stepped down upon assurance from Trump that his successor would be chosen from a list Kennedy provided. Kavanaugh, who clerked for Kennedy, wasn’t on the original list drawn up for Trump by the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation when he took office but was added at the behest of Kennedy.

The confirmation process intersects with the Trump-Russia conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 elections and with Trump’s financial criminality. Kennedy’s son is an official at Deutsche Bank, one of the few financial institutions willing to lend Trump any capital in recent years.

Trump was determined to nominate Kavanaugh. Why? Because of Kavanaugh’s stand on executive privilege and his stated belief that a sitting president can’t be indicted for a crime.

It appeared the Kavanaugh nomination would sail through, but then Dr. Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and other alleged Kavanaugh assault victims surfaced. Kavanaugh claimed he knew nothing of Ramirez’s allegations and became aware of them only on September 23 when The New Yorker magazine ran an exposé.

But he was lying. Some of Kavanaugh’s former Yale University classmates charge Kavanaugh knew his sexual assault on Ramirez would resurface. Kavanaugh began laying the groundwork to undermine her credibility earlier this summer, as far back as July. This is proved by a series of text messages which show Kavanaugh led a conspiracy to get friends to present a false narrative.

If Kavanaugh had been under indictment, this would be witness tampering, a federal crime. But none of this was probed by the sham FBI investigation.

Trump, the White House legal team, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were apparently aware of accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. In fact, McConnell was known to have initially opposed the Kavanaugh nomination because it would be difficult to confirm. Now we know why.

But Trump was dead set on getting Kavanaugh confirmed to protect himself from indictment or impeachment relating to his criminal business dealings and the Russia election conspiracy. Was a deal reached? Did Kavanaugh agree to help undermine the Mueller investigation and protect Trump from criminal liability in exchange for his nomination to the Supreme Court? These are just some of the questions that must be asked.

GOP death spiral?

Despite this victory for the right wing, the Kavanaugh scandal actually exposes a Republican Party in an existential crisis. The party has been the embodiment of traditional conservative ideology. But led by Trump, the GOP is now openly the party of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, violations of democratic norms and the Constitution, and anti-science, with ties to a global fascist alt-right.

The modern right, which came of age with the election of Ronald Reagan, birthed the Tea Party. The past decade has seen a backlash against rapid and profound social and political change. Most notably, the election of the nation’s first African-American president was a decisive turning point. Once nominated and then elected, Trump quickly consolidated his authority and has moved to eliminate any opposition within his party.

Trump and the GOP are determined to undermine freedom of the press and consolidate their own right-wing media propaganda machine. | Michael Brochstein / Sipa via AP

Ninety percent of the existing GOP base is unwavering in its support of Trump, openly embracing authoritarianism, white supremacy, misogyny, anti-immigrant xenophobia, homophobia, religious intolerance, and the trampling of democratic norms.

The Republican Party has merged with the extreme right-wing mass media infrastructure, keeping millions in an insulated bubble of lies and conspiracies. Fox, Sinclair Broadcasting, and Breitbart act as both a source of policy for the White House and as its propaganda arm. Together, Trump and the right-wing media carry out a constant assault on the truth and undermine the mass media as a pillar of democracy by branding it an enemy of the people and urging violence against reporters.

The Trump and GOP base comprises some 50- 60 million voters and will be part of politics for a long time to come. Under Trump, the party has the potential to evolve even further to the right and even to become a mass fascist party. Moderate forces are either being driven out, marginalized, or intimidated into silence. With this tilt toward further extremism, the GOP will continue to lose ground among working class and women voters, particularly in suburban communities, and youth.

The Republican Party will only maintain power by mobilizing an overwhelming white vote based on fear and hate, curtailing democracy, expanding voter suppression and gerrymandering, and dominating the courts.

The future rests on the united rainbow diversity of the American people, an alliance of every political and social force possible, rising to defeat every GOP elected official or candidate at whatever level in 2018, which will also lay the basis for defeating Trump and the GOP in 2020.

And the American people are rising—thousands of activists, women, people of color, and trade unionists are running for office. Many of them are already winning. Their election will begin the process of remaking legislative bodies—from school boards all the way up to Congress.

Therefore, it’s essential to vastly expand the racially diverse and inclusive electorate and fight to make inroads in the base of white working-class voters who are temporarily under the sway of Trump.

This movement is not fighting to restore what was, but rather for a new race and gender inclusive people’s democracy that will radically reorder politics, expand democratic rights, and put the economy on a path of sustainability and demilitarization.

It is an unprecedented moment. History is calling on us to rise to the occasion.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.