Sunday, October 7, 2018

Implausible Deniability, SCOTUS edition

I have not been writing much lately--busy grant-writing and too depressed.  What is there to say about the US Senate confirming someone who has lied repeatedly to the Senate, who gave a partisan screed at his confirmation hearing, and who clearly could not pass a real investigation of his past?

What I can say is that implausible deniability is now very much a thing.  Susan Collins and the others who voted for Kavanaugh, including Joe Manchin, had to rely on implausible claims:
  • that Dr. Ford was assaulted but not by Kavanaugh--Collins literally said this, perhaps buying the Ed Whelan conspiracy theory
  • that the FBI investigated and didn't find any compelling evidence.  Of course, the FBI didn't really investigate, but the extra week and its "report" gave Flake and other senators the opportunity to say that they did due diligence.
  • that Kavanaugh is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade or anything else that is "settled law."  
 I can go on and on.  The basic point is this: there were very thin, small, broken fig leaves that were used to cover up the ugly realities, and that the politicians who wanted to vote for Kavanaugh due to party id (Collins, Flake, etc) and those who wanted to vote because of concerns about re-election (Manchin) had enough bits and pieces to deny that Kavanaugh was clearly unqualified.  The truth is that Kavanaugh is unqualified for many, many reasons, but the GOP and the FBI gave the politicians opportunities to deny.  Do we buy these denials? Hells no.  But they serve a purpose--it allows the politicians to live with themselves and perhaps fool those who want to be fooled.

Every time a Supreme Court decision whittles away access to abortion or gives the Trump administration more ways to misbehave (self-pardons, allowing the President to pardon state-level prosecutions, etc), Collins and Manchin and Flake will need to be reminded that they are responsible, not just for telling women that they should not come forward, but for enabling the destruction of the rule of law.  Flake is leaving the Senate, but I hope he faces a lifetime of recriminations.  I hope that Collins loses office in 2020, and I guess I hope that Manchin sticks around long enough to give the Dems a majority but not much longer than that.

Because they all sold out whatever values they claim to have and they claim they did not because they have the thinnest of cover.  Their deniability is implausible, and we need to call them on it.  Again, democratic politics relies on shame, and we need to make these people feel the burn of shame.  Implausible deniability, if unchallenged, leads to shamelessness which paves the way to the end of democracy.

No comments: