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    An October Surprise We Shall Never Forget

    By Andrea Shorter–

    The first Monday in October denotes the opening of the new session of the U.S. Supreme Court. By statute and tradition, SCOTUS has commenced its yearlong session for the past 100 years of the high Court. The high court was first convened in 1790. Since SCOTUS was established in 1789, 113 persons have served on the Court.

    In 1967, as an African American, Thurgood Marshall would become the first of three eventual Associate Justices of color to serve on the high court. Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor are currently the only other persons of color confirmed as Associate Justices. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first of four women to be nominated and confirmed as an Associate Justice in 1981 before the eventual confirmations of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as Associate Justices. President Barack Obama has the distinction of appointing two (half) of the four of this small sorority.

    Not since the Senate hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas were so dramatically upset and upended by the sexual harassment charges by Anita Hill, have we witnessed and experienced another such traumatic fallout as that surrounding the rush to confirm President Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

    The charges of sexual assault and misconduct against Kavanaugh brought forth by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford—and similarly by two other women—rocked what was to have been a relatively smooth sail for Judge Kavanaugh through the Republican majority led process. The revelation that the Judge was apparently a beer soaked, inebriated prep school frat bro mess of a mean drunk who forced himself on, or exposed his genitals to, girls at house parties and gatherings, completely shattered the choir boy A-student all the way through Yale Law School image that he wanted us all to believe.

    Dr. Ford’s highly believable and credible testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee provided an astounding contrast to the temperamental, ballistic refute of the charges by an evasive, yet seemingly entitled, Kavanaugh. The drama catapulted the already high stakes political theater of it all into a profoundly deeper, darker space. This was a sight we collectively cannot unsee. It was like looking directly at the sun in an eclipse at risk of permanent retinal damage or at worse blindness. It is now an indelible memory and injury to the psyche not unlike the trauma described by assault survivors. Whatever your interpretation is of this event, it will not be forgotten, and will be prone to affect us in injurious ways long beyond the immediate sensationalism of this moment.

    The symmetries to the Clarence Thomas hearings of 27 years ago are painfully obvious. With nearly the exact same cast of the all-white male Republican bench on the Senate Judiciary Committee as were there in 1991, the issues played out with regard to gender, male privilege, and partisan power will continue to be discussed, debated and activated towards referendum into the immediacy of the fast approaching mid-term elections and for years to come.

    Perhaps the only lessons learned by the Republicans since Anita Hill’s serious allegations and testimony before the committee were: 1) hire and try to hide behind the skirts of a woman prosecutor to question the woman making sexual misconduct charges against the nominee to obscure the optics that you are still an all-white male panel of Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee; 2) fire the woman prosecutor during the hearings when she asks questions that cause the nominee to have a temperamental meltdown when faced with simple yes or no facts about the matter; and 3) allow Lindsay Graham to let loose in a shameless tirade against Democrats for an on air audition for Trump to maybe replace a beleaguered Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General.

    The events of 1991 spurred the 1992 Year of the Woman, Elect Women for a Change movement that brought Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer among a historic score of women to the U.S. Senate. 1992 was the predecessor to the 2016 post-election galvanization of now thousands of women running for local, state and federal offices in this #MeToo era. Additionally, there are way more LGBT people of color and immigrant candidates running for office than in 1992. The chances of more diverse representation in elected offices across the country have exponentially increased in the last 2 years alone—Trump’s base’s greatest fears are coming true.

    Still, for all of the charges by the Republicans against the Democrats for politicizing this particular nomination pertaining to the timing of releasing the initial confidentially-held allegations by Dr. Ford, the fact remains that this particular nomination was clearly and dangerously politicized well before Dr. Ford came onto the scene.

    Lest we forget: Trump selected Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace Justice Kennedy primarily for a singular, self-serving interest, protection against indictment while President.

    Remember, Kavanaugh was nowhere near the Federalist Society approved short list of candidates submitted for consideration. Those now nameless others met the right-wing prerequisites to handily carry the water on any such potential, bothersome rulings concerning reproductive rights, LGBT rights, immigration, environmental protections, etc. It was Kavanaugh’s expressed opinions relative to the constitutional right to indict a sitting President that caused his ascension as the chosen one above the select list, cementing him as Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court.

    The probability of Kavanaugh infecting the high court with his curious opinion on the matter of indictment of a sitting President might be slim to none. If you are the only sitting President in U.S. history beset by the apocalyptic legal and ethical challenges facing this President—yes, worse than Nixon—it’s a risk worth taking to nominate the one guy who could at least make the case to save your behind.

    Trump could care less about the implications of his choice for the Supreme Court into the next three to four decades. Trump’s sights are set on whatever piece of raft that might help save him from drowning in deepening waters above his coifed head now.
    Furthermore, a Kavanaugh confirmation delivered by an all too eager GOP fearful of mid-term loss of majority rule in the Congress would help seal the deal for a Trump domination of all three branches of government.

    I believe Dr. Ford. We can never thank her enough for her courage to step forward into the harsh, glaring, and cruel spotlight to do her civic duty to inform us of her assault at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh. We’ve now seen with our very own eyes the lack of temperament, character and ability to tell the truth exhibited by nominee Kavanaugh. And, this was while he was sober. What we can do is honor the preferred character, temperament, and truth-telling bravely exhibited by Dr. Ford by sending the lot of the Trump-GOP packing on November 6, 2018.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights, and marriage equality. A Co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.