Thursday, September 27, 2018


Many people from the left and center are asking why Republicans don't simply cut their losses, dump Brett Kavanaugh, and replace him with someone else who'll be a Kavanaugh clone on the bench. But as Sarah Frostenson, Micah Cohen, and Perry Bacon Jr. note in this FiveThirtyEight conversation, for conservatives this fight is about more than appointing any old movement rightist:
sarahf: ... given the partisan divide on issues of sexual misconduct, Kavanaugh withdrawing or President Trump asking for him to withdraw (which I think is unlikely) could backfire among the base.

perry: So you think Republican voters will be turned off because they think Trump would be bowing to liberal views on sexual harassment/misconduct/assault.

micah: Yeah, and maybe that plays more of a role in how the GOP base reacts than their views on the Supreme Court.
Peter Beinart echoes this view in an Atlantic essay:
Trumpism, at its core, is a rebellion against changes in American society that undermine traditional hierarchies. It’s based on the belief that these changes, rather than promoting fairness for historically oppressed groups, actually promote “political correctness”: the oppression of white, native-born Christian men. To understand the conservative response to the allegations against Kavanaugh, a few data points are useful. Between 2013 and 2018, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the percentage of Republicans who said that in the U.S. “there is a lot of discrimination against women” fell by half, from 28 to 14 percent. (Among Democrats during the same period it rose from 55 to 71 percent). By contrast, between 2012 and 2016, the percentage of Republicans who said men face a “great deal” or a “lot” of discrimination doubled from 9 to 18 percent. (Among Democrats it declined slightly). And in 2016, according to PRRI, 68 percent of Trump supporters said American society is becoming “too soft and feminine.”

If you’re already inclined to believe that America increasingly victimizes men simply for acting like men, the accusations against Kavanaugh confirm your fears. First, because if these charges can sink Kavanaugh, they can sink lots of other men too. “Is there any man in this room that wouldn’t be subjected to such an allegation?” asked Iowa Republican Representative Steve King earlier this week.... As the conservative pundit Erick Erickson tweeted on Wednesday, “If they cannot confirm Kavanaugh, they cannot confirm anyone. This is the beginning of a new age of judicial character assassination and it only gets worse from here.”
To a great extent, this is a belief that we on the left are engaged in a massive plot to simply make stuff up about Kavanaugh, something we can and will do in the future to even the most blameless conservatives if we get away with it now. (In essence, all of them, even the ones like Erickson who've claimed to be #NeverTrumpers, are echoing Trump's "fake news" conspiracy theory.)

But what's also in play here is what I think of as the right's "good man" theory: A belief that once you've been designated a "good man" (a phrase George W. Bush used a lot) or a "high-quality person" (a phrase the president has applied to both Donald Trump Jr. and Kavanaugh), you should simply be above suspicion. A person's goodness, in this view, is not called into question by bad acts; once a person is defined (by conservatives) as good, that's all that needs to be known. At that point, it's slanderous to accuse the person of bad acts.

Here's part of a piece Erickson published yesterday about Kavanaugh that expresses this view:
What about Kavanaugh?

He graduated at the top of his class at Georgetown Prep.

He graduated with honors from Yale.

He graduated from Yale Law School and made the Yale Law Journal, which only those in the top of the class do.

He has published articles in the Yale Law Journal, the Georgetown Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review, the Notre Dame Law Review, the Minnesota Law Review, the Catholic University Law Review, the Marquette Lawyer, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Lawfare, among other publications.

He clerked for multiple federal appellate court judges, a Supreme Court Justice, and worked in the United States Solicitor General's office.

He was a partner at a major law firm.

He served as an advisor to the President of the United States.

He was even hired by Elena Kagan to teach at Harvard.

He now serves on the United States Court of Appeals.

He has been through six FBI background checks. The drug running operation that everybody knew about never came up. The rape gangs never came up. The sexual assaults never came up. There've been no mistresses, no assaults, no nothing about the guy during the course of his professional career when a guy who had that much power could have wielded it to his advantage. He did not.

Maybe there is another Brett Kavanaugh out there who failed at life.

But this Brett Kavanaugh is an accomplished husband, father, lawyer, and judge who has a highly regarded personal and professional reputation. That quote at top is right. One does not go from running rape gangs in college to the US Court of Appeals after serving Presidents and Supreme Court Justices. It just does not happen.

Democrats who want us to believe it does want us to disregard everything we know about human behavior. Garbage people never stop being garbage people and Brett Kavanaugh is not a garbage person. He's practically got a halo.
Pedophile priests? Bill Cosby, who was a Ph.D. as well as a man with high accomplishments in many areas of entertainment? I guess, to Erickson, none of these people ever really did anything of value before being exposed as "garbage persons."

And of course, to the right, the opposite of a synonym for "garbage person" is "liberal."

This worldview explains why religious rightists persist in seeing the obviously irreligious libertine Donald Trump as one of their own: He does many things Christian conservatives want, therefore he is a Christian. (The word "Christian," to conservative Christians, is synonymous with "good person.") And because he's a Christian, his un-Christian deeds must be made to vanish. His goodness, his Christianity, exist by definition. Christian Trumpists don't need to weigh evidence.

All this is related to what Frank Wilhoit says about conservatism:
Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.
Conservatives reserve to themselves the right to decide which in-groups the law protects but does not bind: fellow Republicans who are "good men," and, of course, corporations. The in-groups should not be bound by law because they're defined as good, therefore they're incapable of doing things that aren't good. (Conservatives literally believe this about corporations under capitalism, which they regard as perfectly self-regulating.)

The rest of us fall into the other category. We're not the Elect. Sucks to be us, I guess, but Republicans will fight like hell to preserve this system.

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