The controversy over the confirmation of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh is seeping into the Nov. 6 midterm elections and even into the realms of how Americans and Utahns interact on many levels. We explore the consequences.
Are the raw and visceral events surrounding the Kavanaugh confirmation just another media blip, or has our national culture been permanently affected?
Pignanelli: “This moment is not going to pass. This moment is with us for a while.”— Matthew Dowd
When I was a skinny 16-year-old, I was molested by a male predator twice my age and size. Just seconds from a brutal rape, I wrestled away and ran. Ashamed, terrified and crippled with guilt, this son of a devout Catholic family could not reveal the trauma to my loving parents, priest or police. My experience does not approximate the suffering of millions of American women, but I am deeply empathetic to victims who did not report sexual assaults — including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
As a lawyer and public official, I swore an oath to uphold the federal and state constitutions, including the principles underlying them. In courtrooms and the Capitol, I represented clients and colleagues accused of illegal or unethical conduct. In each instance, I reaffirmed a fundamental precept in America: The law applies to everyone equally. The accused are entitled to confront their accuser and be judged by the evidence available.
These life experiences illustrate how most Utahns struggle with this dilemma. They sympathize with and respect the victim. But those alleged of wrongdoing cannot be convicted in a court of law or arena of public opinion without adequate evidence.
Credible witnesses with conflicting stories are frequent scenarios in America. Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, offers resolution with this recommendation: “When we say, ‘Believe survivors,’ it's … people do not often lie about their pain and the trauma of sexual violence … but do not believe them without investigation or interrogation. This is not, ‘Believe people, blanket and don't investigate.’” Well stated.
Webb: This saga has elicited raw feelings on all sides. The believable and heartfelt testimony of Ford was nearly overwhelmed by protesters screaming in the faces of senators. I believe, on balance, the Democrats and their militant activist base overplayed their hand, angering both traditional Republicans and Trump Republicans. They managed to unite and energize a fractured Republican Party.
For example, my wife, Jan, is a moderate Republican. Like many women, she has no use for President Donald Trump. She greatly dislikes his tone and demeanor, his pomposity, his sarcasm, his name-calling, his treatment of women and so forth.
But, by the time the Kavanaugh battle was over, Jan — the moderate — was thoroughly disgusted with the way the Democrats and the throngs of protesters behaved. She felt the Democrats were disingenuous, unfair and highly political and were trying to destroy a good man.
Way back in 1968, when CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite suggested that America cease fighting the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.”
If the Democrats have lost a significant number of moderate women, they’ve also lost middle America.
Both Republicans and Democrats are expressing outrage to motivate voters in the upcoming elections. Will the emotions remain strong enough through Election Day and beyond to impact the races?
Pignanelli: Because this is more than an ideological variance and is highly personal to voters, passion will remain high long past Election Day.
Webb: An election that was mostly a referendum on Trump is now also a referendum on Democratic extremism and moblike behavior. Trump-hating Democrats were already eager to vote. Now Republicans are just as galvanized. It could hurt Democrats in close races like the Mia Love/Ben McAdams 4th Congressional District battle.
McAdams is a very nice and capable person. He’s a political moderate. He says he won’t support Nancy Pelosi as House speaker.
But the reality is that a vote for McAdams is a vote for the Democratic mob to take over the House. The hysterical Democratic base that has been harassing Republican leaders in restaurants and chasing them down hallways will be in charge. The people who want to impeach Kavanaugh, impeach Trump and eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement will control the House.
What is the long-term impact on Utah's politics, society and culture?
Pignanelli: This is dividing families, friends and former political allies. But I am the internal optimist and believe the net result of this controversy is beneficial to our state. Those unfairly traumatized or injured will now be emboldened to come forward, knowing there is a support structure in place. But allegations of criminal or bad behavior — including those made via social media — must now be supported by reasonable evidence or be dismissed.
Webb: This furor will subside. But the reality is that Republicans have won an enormous victory. With Trump’s two recent appointments, the Supreme Court is now majority conservative. Liberals will no longer be able to use the court to move the country to the left. They won’t be able to use the courts to enact policies they can’t get through the legislative branch. Long term, that will be very good for the country.