Kavanaugh, and the lesser-spoken of issue
It’s nigh on impossible to have missed the monsoon of coverage about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and appointment to the Supreme Court. His personal politics, unclear past, and the heavily politicised proceedings which have damaged the lives of the Justice himself, as well as Dr Ford, Ms Swetnick, and Ms Ramirez. There is, however, an issue behind the backdrop, lurking. This is the lack of judicial independence and neutrality. And it is far more threatening than Kavanaugh.
There are many issues with Kavanaugh and the appointment proceedings, but behind all of these is a larger problem.
First, he is believed to have lied under oath at least two times during these proceedings — on his drinking. Many of his classmates and friends have spoken out against his assertions, and, though it may seem like nit-picking, perjury, especially for a Supreme Court nominee, is a major problem.
Second, while I tend to stay away from partisanship and over-polarisation of politics, the issue of the so-called “stolen seat” is of great concern to the neutral bystander. The GOP held open the final seat when Merrick Garland was appointed by Obama because of historic and somewhat manipulated comments by the then-Vice President, Joe Biden.
It is the abuse of power, almost, by the GOP-controlled Senate that is problematic in this case. The job of the Senate and the legislature is to act as a check on Presidential power, not to actively work against it. As such, any sensible onlooker sees the “stolen seat” as a problem to be rectified, not as a historical event to be moved on from.
I must also express my concern about the media coverage. It has been abhorrent and appalling, from start to finish. The attacks on Kavanaugh and the GOP from the mainstream were shocking, and the deluge of hatred from right-wing talk shows and Fox News towards the accusers in return equal in moral deficiency.
Senators have only intensified this polarisation and hostile climate, with too many harbouring political goals when their “civic duty”, to borrow a term from Dr Ford, was to simply judge Kavanaugh’s integrity and credentials. (The credentials, I must say, are undeniable.) In all three key votes, the voting across party lines showed a complete disdain for democratic integrity.
There is, however, a much larger issue threatening democratic integrity. That is the inherent politicisation of the Supreme Court, contrasting with the rest of the modern democracies across the world.
Brett Kavanaugh is not a neutral justice, and so will swing the court firmly in favour of social conservatives. I am opposed to this ideology, but have a bigger issue with the idea that the court’s politicisation will now really come to the forefront as a neutral justice, Kennedy, is being replaced by a partisan one.
It is a sad reflection on the supposedly best country in the world, that, in Anthony Kennedy, we may have just seen the retirement of the last independent, neutral justice in the US ever.
The UK has a fantastic model for justice, and it’s very, very simple.
The Supreme Court justices are appointed by an independent Selection Commission, albeit in the name of the Queen. They are required to have no political activity and no party membership, and are rigorously tested for biases. Therefore, our constitutional court interprets law, rather than expressing opinion.
It is, frankly, a farce, that a developed nation like the US has such a flawed system.
Kavanaugh will now get his life appointment. Perhaps this will expose the über-politicisation of the Court for what it truly is, bringing about reform in the future. Probably not. It is most likely a problem that will linger and lurk in the background of US politics for a great many more decades, poisoning it at every opportunity.
It is just one part of an ever-more irrevocable trend of democratic backsliding in the US. I’ve written about it before: essentially, it is where a stable democracy slowly devolves into something more dangerous. This can be due to a leader, or a culture (here it is most certainly the latter).
Better, then, put an end to it once and for all, before it is too late.