In 49 BCE the government of Rome ordered Julius Caesar back from Gaul, since his governorship there had ended. The Roman government specifically told Caesar to disband his army before returning to Rome. This Caesar did not do. Instead he crossed the Rubicon River, which marked the boundary between Italy and Gaul, with the 13th legion intact. Alarmed by his insubordination, the Roman government read the crossing as an act of war on the Roman Senate and the Roman Republic. Civil war ensued, and the Roman Republic was lost to dictatorship.
With their full-throated endorsement of Brett Kavanaugh and their patent indifference to truth or justice, Senate Republicans have crossed the Rubicon and brought us to the edge of the demise of our democratic republic. If Democrats take back the House of Representatives in November, then we might have a reprieve, a pullback from the precipice. But it will be brief. Without Democratic control of the Senate, Trump can continue to fill the federal bench with ultra conservatives, and legislation, requiring both Houses, will stall. Only Democratic control of the House, the Senate, and the White House can restore order to our system and balance in our politics. But the right won’t see it that way. They will see it as a liberal takeover of the government and interpret that as an end to freedom. Republicans, an ironic moniker if there ever was one, crossed the Rubicon with the Kavanaugh confirmation and thereby ended the American experiment with democracy.
You don’t have to be a liberal or a Democrat to see the demise of the republic in that confirmation. With a Republican army of stooges and enablers, Trump has successfully delegitimized all three branches of the federal government. Through the White House he has destroyed the norms of governing; has filled his cabinet with grifters and manifestly unqualified department heads; has attacked the press; has undermined confidence in the Justice Department, the FBI, and the entire intelligence community; has turned the bully pulpit into a platform of lies; and has violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Perhaps most illegitimate of all, from a democratic perspective, he holds office having lost the popular vote by some three million votes.
Trump was merely a partner in delegitimizing Congress. With Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House the legislature was unable to pass any significant legislation, save for a tax cut that most benefitted the wealthiest Americans. The House has repeatedly refused to investigate the multiple charges of Russian election interference, to say nothing of charges against Trump’s actions themselves; the Senate has been only marginally better, holding scattered hearings here and there that amount to very little.
The final step by the Republican army into the waters of the Rubicon was the confirmation of ill-tempered, partisan, and mendacious Brett Kavanaugh. Any fair-minded assessment of the evidence surrounding Kavanaugh’s behavior as a young adult, as a clerk for Judge Kozinski, as an Associate Counsel for Ken Starr as a political operative for George Bush, and during his confirmation hearings will raise serious doubts about his fitness for a seat on the Supreme Court. In short, there is enough evidence about his character to judge him unfit for that position.
My judgment of Kavanaugh is not politically partisan. I am a Democrat, but I can easily admit that Bill Clinton was a sexual predator. His behavior toward some women was atrocious, and his lying about some of that behavior was appalling. So, too, with Kavanaugh.
Did Kavanaugh sexually assault Christine Blasey Ford and others? The circumstantial evidence screams “yes,” but at this point, without a thorough investigation, that evidence remains only circumstantial. Yet consider that evidence:
First, Blasey Ford had little to gain and much to lose by coming forward. Indeed, her life has been upended and deeply damaged by coming forward with her charges against Kavanaugh. She is not by history or temperament someone who seeks the spotlight of publicity and fame. So what, personally, was she to gain by coming forward?
Second, without much to gain, why would she lie? Who is more likely to have lied about that past event: the person with little to gain or the person facing a possible lifetime appointment to highest court in the United States? And who is more likely a liar: a person who calls repeatedly for an FBI investigation into the allegation or a person who never calls for such an investigation and who evades answering all questions related to it? A person who soberly and carefully lays out the details of a traumatic event from her past or the person who vituperates, weeps, and attacks the political opposition, with no evidence at all, for mounting a smear campaign against him?
“Hey,” Grassley, Graham, Hatch, and Cornyn might say, “it’s still only circumstantial evidence. You can’t prosecute a case on that evidence. You’re presuming he’s guilty.” Nonsense, all the way around. Kavanaugh ought not to be thrown in jail on the basis of the testimony of Blasey Ford. Besides, the Senate confirmation hearing, as repeatedly pointed out, is a job interview. It’s not a court hearing. The presumption of innocence is not in play here. There is a serious allegation against him. Only a thorough investigation, which Republicans have refused to issue, will reveal evidence beyond the circumstantial.
What we do have that is evidence beyond the circumstantial is the actual lies told by Kavanaugh under oath. Below are examples from his testimony relating to the accusations of Dr. Blasey Ford. I am omitting those related to his work with Judge Kozinski and his work at the White House, also made under oath and thus subject to perjury charges.
1) He said that he and Blasey Ford did not travel in the same social circles and that he might have met her at a social event, “but I don’t recall that.” She dated one of Kavanaugh’s close friends, a friend whose name appears on Kavanaugh’s infamous calendar 13 times.
2) He claimed that “devil’s triangle” is “a drinking game.” No one from that era thinks this; no one with access to the Internet thinks this. It is a three-way, a sexual threesome with two men and one women. An obvious lie, which Yale classmates pointed out, since Kavanaugh and his friends used the term as a sexual reference.
3) He claimed that “boofing” was about farting. That’s a lie. It was a common term among teenagers in the 80’s either for anal sex or for shooting drugs or alcohol up one’s ass for a faster high. Another obvious lie, since, once again, Yale classmates pointed out that Kavanaugh and his friends used the term as a sexual reference.
4) To a question about what the term “ralph” means, Kavanaugh said that it referred to “throwing up.” That is true, but he followed that up by saying, “I have a weak stomach.” As every American knows, “ralph” is a term for throwing up from consumption of too much alcohol.
5) He claimed that he never blacked out from drinking and never drank so much that he forgot some or much of what had happened. Many from his high school and several of his college friends and acquaintances state categorically that that is a lie. One Yale roommate said that he drank excessively and would become “belligerent and mean.”
6) He stated and repeated that when he drank as a senior in high school, it was legal because the drinking age in Maryland then was 18. It wasn’t. The drinking age when Kavanaugh was in high school was 21. Besides, he admits to drinking when he was 17.
7) He claimed that “Renate Alumnius” (sic) was a yearbook reference to their friendship. Renate herself, who only learned of the reference during the Kavanaugh hearing, said that “the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.” In other words, Renate knew, as did Kavanaugh, his circle of friends, and presumably everyone with eyes and ears, that the reference was not to friendship but to sex.
8) He claimed that those mentioned by Blasey Ford refuted her charges. That’s a lie. They did not corroborate her story, but they did not refute it either.
9) He lied that he first heard of the allegations by Deborah Ramirez when he read (or heard about) Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer’s article in The New Yorker, when e-mail exchanges show that Kavanaugh and cronies were weeks earlier preparing a strategy for discrediting her.
10) He lied that he was not the character “Bart O’Kavanaugh,” when his high-school nickname was “Bart” and when he signed a letter written to his high-school friends advising them to warn the condo neighbors that they were “loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us.”
Why would Judge Kavanaugh go to lengths to lie about his conduct in high school? Why would he lie about his drinking and about the sexual references on his yearbook page? Because any admission that he was a heavy drinker, a black-out drinker, and a “belligerent and mean” drunk adds credence to Dr. Blasey Ford’s charge, especially when coupled with the frequent references to sex and sexual acts also on that page.
People who can lie and have lied with impunity show little or no compunction to tell the truth. Why would they? When you don’t think that there will be any consequences for lying and when doing so might help bring you a black robe of the Supreme Court, then why not lie? The stakes are enormous, and lying can smooth the path, not muddy it. And when you have buddies on your side who will lie and deny for you, well, then, full speed ahead. Kavanaugh had those buddies in high school, and he certainly has them in the Senate. Republican senators fulminated at length during and after the hearing about the splendid character of Kavanaugh now under attack and besmirched by the conniving Democrats who forced Blasey Ford to come forward (the opposite of what the evidence shows).
Meanwhile, in the White House, the buddy-in-chief made certain through his directive that any FBI investigation into Kavanaugh would remain limited, so much so that investigators would not interview Kavanaugh, Blasey Ford, or any of the dozens of witnesses who were named or who came forward voluntarily to corroborate the stories by Kavanaugh’s three female accusers.
And so riding in the chariot across the Rubicon is Trump, followed by his Republican crowd of sycophants, enablers, grifters, and hitmen/hitwomen. The republic is now under full attack by the GOP, a party that has abandoned principles, morals, and character, if it ever had them. It is led by men (mostly men) who show a penchant for power and money and little else. They show an indifference to the truth or to justice; they offer only a paltry and phony kind of patriotism. In their pursuit of money and power everything is expendable and has a price tag, including the republic. Their backstairs motto: power over principles, party over country.
Would they mind sacrificing democracy for dictatorship? Certainly not, if the dictator is their dictator. And know that that dictator will almost always be “he.” The GOP is a party led by self-satisfied, intellectually dishonest, entitled white male scoundrels. Their followers are largely rural white men, misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, intellectually lazy, and gullible. They can and will memorize the talking points. Nothing makes sense, or needs to, beyond that.
And women. Women in the GOP are like women in an abusive relationship. They make excuses for the deplorable behavior of their men; they defend those men and side with them against other women. They frequently blame themselves for the mistreatment, and for that reason, they don’t leave. They may also believe that they can change their men, though that dream lies moribund as they join in the chants of “lock her up” and get in step with making America white again.
SHOULD WE SAVE THE REPUBLIC OR BREAK IT UP?
Our three federal branches of government are now fully politicized. The Supreme Court, that bastion of thoughtful, careful, and impartial verdicts, is now a cauldron of steaming partisan stew. Judgments follow party lines. Our institutions have lost legitimacy.
We seem as politically divided today as the country was in 1860, on the verge of the Civil War. Then we fought that war to abolish slavery in the Confederate states and to deny those states the way of life that they had built on slave labor and the slave trade. Reconstruction attempted to rebuild the South and heal wounds. It resulted, as we know, in Jim Crow, segregation, and second-class citizenship for emancipated slaves. Meanwhile, women both North and South were subordinate citizens at best, denied the vote, denied property rights, and considered to be a weaker sex assigned to run the home and do little if anything in public.
Today we are divided by political ideology—right/left, conservative/liberal, rural/urban—and our issues break along ideological lines: immigration, diversity, reproductive rights, equality, and the like.
It is difficult to imagine how we overcome these divides, when one party—the Republican Party—has lost its bearings altogether and seems unwilling and unable any longer to persuade. That party does not believe that climate change is partially, if not largely, the result of human action, despite a consensus among scientists on the data. That party believes that in the face of facts, there can be “alternative facts.” That party does not honor evidence, since it does not honor facts. That party believes that gaining and holding power are the sole goals to pursue, though the party seems bereft of ideas of helping the country once their politicians have power in their grasp. That party believes against all evidence that tax cuts for the wealthy lead to general prosperity. That party holds positions akin to if not identical with racist and misogynist views. It is a party dominated by white men who seek to reestablish or reinforce the traditional hierarchy of white men in power.
We fought the Civil War to free the slaves. It was a cause worth fighting for. But the mentality that sustained slavery lives throughout the South. If the South wishes once again to secede, then perhaps it is time to let them go. Indeed, I suggest that we let all of the red states go, as we create a republic built on democracy—deliberative democracy in workplaces, schools, union halls, corporate board rooms, hospitals, fire stations, and on and on. Let them form their own “republic,” provided they permit a right of exit for all those who wish to leave.
What would these new republics look like? They would very much resemble the electoral map of 2012. Virtually all of the red states would constitute the Southern Republic, which of course would be no republic at all. The exceptions would be Florida, which voted for Obama, making it a blue state. Florida would join the Southern Republic. On the other hand, Arizona and Nevada, trending purple now because of the increasing Hispanic and California influx, would join the North-West Republic of blue states.
We are too divided now to pretend that there are mutual values that hold us together. Let us form treaties and alliances between the two republics, but let’s not continue the illusion that getting along means sacrificing what is most precious—our values—to the demands of those unable and unwilling to examine evidence and follow facts.
So let’s divide the union. Let us put an end to pretense and spend our time, energy, and resources building up a republic that honors immigrants, women, diversity, facts, truth, and the planet.