Editor’s Note: Timothy Stanley is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

The Brett Kavanaugh hearings feel like a decision moment in American life when everyone has to choose where they stand. The problem is wherever that position is, it is permeated with doubt.

Timothy Stanley

The Supreme Court nomination of Kavanaugh had been pretty much going as planned until news broke that he is accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexual assault. They are both expected to testify on the matter soon before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The alleged assault occurred at a party in the 1980s when Kavanaugh and Ford were teenagers. Proving such a thing is very hard; it becomes, absent corroborating evidence, a case of one account against another. If Ford is lying, it’s the most monstrous lie imaginable. If she’s telling the truth, what Kavanaugh did was horrendous, and he clearly has no place in the judiciary at all.

For conservatives, however, the truth – which, to repeat, may remain frustratingly ambiguous – is only one part of the political calculation. The challenge they face is this: If they drop Kavanaugh, then they fear it will send a message that a career can be stopped by an unproved allegation, and that’s not a precedent they care to set. But if they stand by Kavanaugh and he makes it to the Supreme Court, they could be stuck with a man on the bench haunted by the accusation of sexual assault.

And given that Kavanaugh is socially conservative – possibly even the much-dreamed-of deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade – his appointment is both everything the right has ever wanted and, suddenly, something to be cautious about.

The wider political context is unavoidable. The confluence of the #MeToo movement and Donald Trump’s election to the presidency is obvious: I met a lot of women at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington who expressed disgust that the nation could elect a man who, by accident, had gone on the record boasting about molesting women and getting away with it.

That said, #MeToo is not revenge: It is a timely search for due process. Likewise, we can assume that had Kavanaugh been nominated by any other Republican and at any other moment in history, this allegation would still have surfaced. But historians will undoubtedly put it in the context of the liberal resistance to Trump, along with the debate about who should write the laws.

Conservatives would say they want justices with the right ideas and temperament; liberals would say the high court needs to reflect the whole of America, particularly those who most often experience injustice. That’s what almost all court appointment debates are about, and this one feels both universal and painfully of its time.

Kavanaugh can still pull through; I can see the slim Republican hold over the Senate (51-49) working against him, however.

Many senators will be waiting to see what happens when Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford go before the Senate committee in what will be a test of personal credibility and integrity. It’s not inconceivable that America will be stuck with an eight-seat court for a little while longer, which would leave Trump with one key pledge unfulfilled and guarantee that the culture war reaches new heights of partisan hate.

No one should want that. What’s needed at this present time is a sober airing of the facts, sensitivity and a determination to get this nomination right.

This article has been updated from an earlier version.