Editor’s Note: Lucia Brawley is a co-founder of amp.it, a new digital media network for cosmopolitan youth, and an executive producer of two-time Interactive Emmy finalist, “Take Back the Mic: The World Cup of Hip Hop.” She is also the author of the Consenting to Lead Facebook group and a graduate of Harvard with a master’s in acting from Yale. Follow Lucia on Twitter @luciabrawley. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers. View more opinion on CNN.
This is a watershed moment for the GOP. A President who boasted about sexual assault has nominated a judge for an empty Supreme Court seat – and a woman has accused that judge of physical and sexual assault, an accusation he vehemently denies. The outcome of the hearings could decide the fate of women’s bodily autonomy for the foreseeable future.
Initially, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may have tried to persuade Trump to nominate two other judges instead of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Why? Because, according to the New York Times, McConnell was concerned about Kavanaugh’s long paper trail, which includes millions of pages detailing his time on the bench and working in the George W. Bush White House. McConnell, according to sources who briefed the Times, had little desire to revisit the Bush-era controversies, including the use of enhanced interrogation techniques – aka torture – which Kavanaugh upheld the use of in several cases.
And though McConnell lost that battle, his party quickly united around Kavanaugh, moving his confirmation process along at warp speed. Shortly after Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary committee, referred the woman’s allegation of sexual misconduct by the Supreme Court nominee to the FBI, Republican Chuck Grassley, chair of the Judiciary committee, released a letter in which 65 women vouched for Kavanaugh’s character in high school.
This potentially indicates that, after a rushed confirmation hearing process, some within the Republican Party may have known of this allegation and moved forward with his nomination nonetheless. If so, this further proves that Senate Republicans are utterly out of step with the #MeToo generation.
Going forward, Republicans are faced with a spectrum of terrible options. They could continue to rush through the confirmation process and attempt to discredit the alleged victim – Christine Blasey Ford, a professor in California, who offered the Washington Post a detailed account of what she describes as her traumatic experience and its aftermath, and even passed a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent.
If they do so, they may lose crucial Republican votes, which they cannot afford in the current 51-49 split. If they don’t lose enough votes to confirm Kavanaugh, Republicans may pay the price this November, thanks to a fired up Democrat electorate and already growing group of disgruntled independents. Meanwhile, the endless onslaught of scandals could depress the turnout of even dyed-in-the wool Republican women.
Their other option is to slow down the confirmation process and allow Ford to testify about her experience, which will offer the nation a test – to see how far we’ve come since the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings 27 years ago. At that time, an all-male Senate judiciary committee ruled in favor of Thomas and dismissed the accusations of Hill, a Yale-educated law professor, who had accused Thomas of sexual harassment while they worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Notably, Hill has called for a “fair and neutral” process to investigate the claim against Kavanaugh.
Ford’s testimony could stand as a harrowing indictment of Kavanaugh’s abject unfitness to sit on the Supreme Court. After all, her allegation is not one of a merely inappropriate comment, but of sexual assault. If true, in a just world, the price for allegedly holding a girl down, attempting to remove her clothes, turning up music so no one can hear her protests, and muffling her screams until she manages to escape, should be quite high.
Furthermore, if Republican senators attempt to impugn her character, they will disgrace themselves in the eyes of the American people. Public opinion, however, is unlikely to view his alleged crime with such clemency.
Yes, Republicans could gamble that the nation that heard the “Access Hollywood” tape and still elected Donald Trump will vote this November in favor of his party. While Trump didn’t deny the statements on the tape, he did deny he put his words into action. However, at least 15 women have accused Trump of much more than sleazy words – and he has denied each allegation. And, yes, Kavanaugh denies the accusation that was made against him when he – unlike Trump – was still a minor.
That said, the allegation against Kavanaugh is far more severe – it’s based on action, not just words – and is more likely to ignite the civic passions of people who may have sat out the last election because they did not feel enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton.
Anyone can make unfounded allegations to try and thwart someone’s career and, if it isn’t true, the person shouldn’t be summarily dismissed. However, if further testimony corroborates Ford’s claim, the only way Republicans stand a chance in the upcoming elections, and in the judgment of history, is to take an unequivocal stand against predators on the Supreme Court and in the White House.