The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court this past weekend caps one of the strangest performances of political theatre I’ve seen in some time.
I say this without taking sides on the main issue at the hearings. Let us assume that Kavanaugh was guilty of all the crimes and other forms of misbehaviour he was accused of: that he was an angry drunk while a student and had a history of sexually assaulting women. What then followed was still bizarre from a strategic standpoint.
In the first place, the Democrats must have known that there would be no way they could prove such charges. The main complaint was of an event that took place some 35 years previously, with no corroborating witnesses or evidence. This was always going to be a case of “he-said, she-said,” and no matter how credible the complainant (and she was) or how big a train wreck Kavanaugh turned out to be (and he was), we weren’t going to be left with any clearer idea of what really happened.
Added to this was the fact that the nomination was a lock. The Democrats had no way of stopping Kavanaugh’s appointment. This, in turn, made the Republicans’ “victory lap” at the vote for confirmation baffling. It seems a strange thing to pat oneself on the back over.
In short, none of the wall-to-wall cable coverage seemed to be very much concerned with Christine Blasey Ford’s complaint, which was left in the air. Nor did it seem to be about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, which was a foregone conclusion even after his manic and disingenuous performance. Instead it was all about turning out the vote. Both sides were jockeying for position, trying to co-opt a spirit of outrage. Winning!