As Senator Richard Blumenthal complained of Republicans violating Senate “norms” in conducting the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings on Tuesday, his fellow Democrats opted to violate a few.
“The protests are not normal, but these are not normal times,” Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, conceded to USA Today. “These women are standing up because they know that if they’re quiet now and they allow these rigged, shamed hearings to proceed, their lives are going to be impacted in the future.”
The shouts from the galley, not quite incessant but quite frequent, included, “Do your jobs and stop this hearing,” “We will not give our reproductive rights up to Kavanaugh — you must vote no,” and the slightly more polite, “Kavanaugh will overturn our future — please vote no.”
Senator Dick Durbin, who behaved in a collegial manner during his Wednesday questioning, nevertheless earlier called the interruptions “the noise of democracy.” His colleagues agreed and partook, noisily.
Preempting a backlash from their left flank, Democrats opened the hearings by interrupting Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley immediately. Kamala Harris behaved as Kamala the Ugandan Giant, but without a Skandor Akbar to temper her tantrums. “We cannot possibly move forward with this hearing, Mr. Chairman,” she shouted over Grassley. Within the first minute of the hearing, Senators Mazie Hirono and Richard Blumenthal, as well as the audience, joined in the WWE-style free-for-all, using foreign objects, hand-made placards, and all means at their disposal.
Senator Cory Booker managed to outdo them all in violating Senate norms. He announced a unilateral decision to publicize post-9/11 documents regarding airport security that he described as marked confidential. He welcomed efforts to expel him from the Senate and grandiosely labeled his actions in the tradition of “civil disobedience.” The grandstanding left Bill Burck, the man overseeing the release of Bush-era documents, befuddled. “We were surprised to learn about Senator Booker’s histrionics this morning because we had already told him he could use the documents publicly,” Burck explained in a statement. “In fact, we have said yes to every request made by the Senate Democrats to make documents public.”
Several Democrats outdid themselves in feigning (or not) contempt for the mild-mannered Kavanaugh, who though he, like every other recent nominee, avoided many questions at least did so in a thoughtful and polite manner. On Thursday, Sheldon Whitehouse contended that Kavanaugh should recuse himself on any cases involving Donald Trump because the president nominated him, a standard not applied to any previous Supreme Court justice. The poker-faced Kavanaugh briefly slipped into the expression last seen on him when he watched the end of The Sixth Sense.
Juxtaposed with the even-keeled and well-mannered Kavanaugh, Democrats, excluding Dianne Feinstein and a few others, looked like children throwing a brat-fit. In an effort to paint their opponents as extremists, they laid bare a shiny-eyed face of fanaticism — their own. Despite all the talk of “democracy” among protesters (protesters trying to stop the work of elected officials), the electorate spoke in a louder voice than even those in the room in electing a Republican Senate and a Republican president. Elections have consequences.
Though Democrats ignore away the last election, they seem transfixed on two upcoming ones. The outbursts uncharacteristic of the Senate aim to motivate the Democratic base for November. The fact that Senators Booker and Harris, two politicians considering runs for the White House, outdid the rest in their bad behavior affirms that 2020 is not hindsight but the focus in view.
The obvious farce of the orchestrated outrage masks the farce of the vetting of Supreme Court nominees that has little to do with temperament or qualifications and everything to do with abortion. The questioned avoids incoming by pretending that sharing any insight into judicial philosophy might show prejudice toward future cases before him. The questioners pretend to care about matters other than abortion. Even when Democrats questioned Kavanaugh on torture or racial profiling, the subtext of abortion loomed large as though they raised these questions as a means of damaging the nominee because of the primary concern, abortion. Cognizant, to an extent, of how their monomania comes across, the interrogators included questions on whether the Justice Department can indict presidents, at least this one, or what the jurist thought of media attacks on former boss Ken Starr. Even when it’s not about abortion, it’s about abortion.
A party once committed to the maintenance of slavery goes all-in on abortion. As the forced conversions of Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, and Mario Cuomo indicate, this article of faith predates this era. While Republican presidents since Roe v. Wade, a decision authored by a Republican appointee and joined by four other Republican-appointed judges, nominated a roughly equal number of jurists supporting as opposing that decision, Democratic nominees have uniformly supported abortion as a constitutional right. A litmus test exists, just not in the way the narrative portrays it.
The larger irony amid the smaller one of activists attempting to derail the nominating process in the name of democracy involves a case that stripped the lawmaking ability of the people and their representatives in all 50 states regarding abortion. Should Kavanaugh fulfill the prophecy of his opponents in providing the fifth vote to overturn Roe — it seems not a fait accompli that he will — the laboratories of democracy again determine the laws that work for them.
Is democracy so frightening that activists would rather scream and disrupt democracy than face it?