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Boomer Opinion: Energized for Elections

These are not the worst of times. But some days, for some baby boomers who closely follow politics, they feel pretty bad. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs says they drove him to darned near curl up in a cocoon (metaphorically). But it didn’t last.

Who came out ahead after the Brett Kavanaugh follies? Well, for starters, Kavanaugh himself, after declaring at his hearing that he was “100-percent certain” that he didn’t do what Christine Blasey Ford said he did at a teenage party 36 years ago. As if, even if he did do it, he would be expected to say anything else (and as if, if he was indeed drunk as a rat, he could be expected to remember). After all, the job of Justice on the United States Supreme Court was almost close enough to touch.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

It was enough to convince the handful of GOP senators who had seemed to be sitting on the fence. As if the denial by the accused is validation of his innocence. As a result, we now have sitting on the High Court a justice credibly accused of sexual assault.

Welcome to the Third World. It came out ahead too. It just won validation in Washington.

Of course President Trump and his conservative base also came out ahead, the president cementing his pseudo conservative stamp on the Court. Trump even went so far as to declare that he too is “100-percent” certain that Kavanaugh didn’t do it. As if he’d been at the party himself. As if anyone other than just two people— Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford— could be 100-percent certain about anything that might have happened that night.

(Just for the record, the first person to proclaim “100-percent” certainty was Blasey Ford herself. Corroborated, if not confirmed, by her therapist’s notes and her lie detector test. But of course she had so much to gain. Not!)

On top of all that, GOP pundits and politicians think the Kavanaugh circus has energized their voters. Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell called Democratic opposition to Kavanaugh “a great political gift for us.” As if that was the most important consequence of the carnival.

Maybe he’s right. Because having watched the testimony and come to the conclusion myself that Blasey Ford was telling the truth and Kavanagh was lying, I wasn’t energized, I was enervated (which means, for those of you without a dictionary handy, drained).

So enervated that for the past few days, for the first time in my life, I’ve tuned out the news. Not because I was on the far side of the earth and didn’t have WiFi, but because I wasn’t, and did. The news from Washington just got to a point where I was too discouraged, too dejected, too depressed— and too defenseless— to read any more.

Brett Kavanaugh with his wife.

Professionally, I am embarrassed to admit this, because for the better part of the past two years, when so many people have said, in so many words, “I just don’t follow the news any more, it’s too depressing,” my response, in one form or another, has been, “Shutting your eyes real tight isn’t going to make the problem go away.”

But for the past few days, that’s precisely what I did.

Well, that’s not quite true. I did send a letter to the Republican senator from my state, Cory Gardner, imploring him to oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Fat chance. but I wrote anyway.

“First,” I said, “clearly the abbreviated FBI investigation didn’t touch on reliable-sounding witnesses to two of the alleged sexual assault incidents, which makes it a sham and deep down you must know that.” Deep down, I suspect, a lot of Republican senators knew that. Including Maine’s Susan Collins, who had talked such a good game about female victims of sexual assault and the reasons why they often don’t go public about their painful experiences. As it turns out, it was all talk.

“Second,” I wrote, “in the light of so many reliable news accounts of former classmates speaking of Judge Kavanaugh’s heavy drinking habits through college (including then-friend Mark Judge’s barely disguised reference to “Bart O’Kavanaugh”), the man pretty clearly LIED to Congress by painting himself just short of a saint when it came to drinking, which not only is a federal crime but surely a disqualifier for the High Court.”

Yes, I know that the grave charge against Kavanaugh was sexual assault, not heavy drinking. But I also know, President Bill Clinton was not impeached for having sex in the Oval Office; he was impeached for lying about it. So I continued to Senator Gardner, “In good conscience, can you ignore that?” Obviously he could, and did. Which I guess comes as no surprise. Any elected official who votes to enable the likes of polarizer-in-chief Donald Trump and hypocrite-in-chief Mitch McConnell doesn’t have a good conscience to appeal to.

“Finally,” I wrote, “Kavanaugh’s contrition in the Wall Street Journal notwithstanding (in which the judge offered apologies for his unjudgelike performance before the Senate Judiciary), his opening statement to Judiciary (blaming his plight on “revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups”) rendered him incapable in the future of the neutral umpire’s role as a judge that he claims in the past he played.

But of course that too was bound to fall on flat ears. This is the party, after all, that rushed full speed ahead to confirm Kavanaugh, because the High Court had to have every seat filled as soon as possible. The same party, in case you’ve forgotten, that two years ago cheated in front of God and everybody to keep a seat open for the final eleven months of President Obama’s term. Mitch McConnell even complained with a straight face that Democrats were part of “mob rule,” an “organized effort to delay, obstruct, and intimidate”…. while for eleven months he wouldn’t even give Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland a hearing. Check out “hypocrisy” in your dictionary. McConnell’s picture might appear.

Greg Dobbs

But all for naught. Brett Kavanaugh now sits on the High Court. If you believe he did commit sexual assault back in school, then lied about his saintly behavior as a teen before the Senate, you can get only one piece of satisfaction: he will never again proudly prance into a public place with the full respect of any audience before him. Instead, roughly half the people in the room will look at him and see a liar, even a rapist. Small satisfaction to be sure, but just desserts for Kavanaugh’s accuser who came forward with her story and was demeaned by his defenders.

But we didn’t come out ahead. And certainly she didn’t. To the contrary, added to the threats against Blasey Ford and her family and her home was the president’s pejorative performance at a Mississippi rally when he mocked her and incited his myopic supporters to chant “Lock her up.” Nor did women who suffer sexual assault. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee complained that because of what happened to Brett Kavanaugh, good candidates won’t likely accept a nomination in the future to federal court. But here’s what was left unsaid: sexual assault victims once again won’t likely accept a summons to report what happened. They could be the next targets of the president’s malicious messaging. And his party’s.

So here’s where we stand: the Republicans feel energized. For the time being, the Democrats don’t. But election day is coming— mail-in ballots in some states already have come— and while the future of the High Court seems set, the future of the Congress is still up for grabs.

That should be enough to energize the other side. I’m not making predictions about what will happen next month, but I will say this to the other side: we’ll see you at the polls. Closing my eyes and hoping for a different outcome didn’t change a thing. Keeping them wide open, and reminding citizens of like mind that they’re not alone, might.