A credible allegation of attempted rape against Brett Kavanaugh may or may not lead Senate Republicans to slow their furious, reckless rush to cement a far-right five-man majority on the Supreme Court on behalf of Donald Trump
But you can be certain that Trump himself won’t abandon Kavanaugh.
That’s because what’s at issue here is an attack on a woman — in the context of a presidency that has been misogynistic to its core.
As the Nation’s Katha Pollitt wrote a few days after the 2016 election, “Trump and his followers have normalized the demeaning of women, even in its coarsest, crudest forms.”
Trump himself bragged about assaulting women in the infamous grab-them-by-the-pussy tape. And he has consistently treated women as objects.
Isolated women are valued – but as decoration, or as a way of defending against accusations of sexism. (Or, in the case of his daughter Ivanka, both.)
Kavanaugh was Trump’s master stroke against women. Under a veneer of respectful behavior, he was a sure bet to be the fifth vote to undermine minority rights in general, and women’s reproductive rights in particular.
Kavanaugh’s disrespect for women’s autonomy over their own bodies was on full display during his Senate confirmation hearings – not by virtue of what he said, but by virtue of what he didn’t say. Despite hailing a number of other Supreme Court precedents, he said nothing about Roe v. Wade definitive enough to contradict previous expressions of skepticism.
And despite his homage to his very accomplished mother, and his record of hiring women clerks, he showed no empathy for women in general.
If Kavanaugh’s treatment of women (or a woman) is his downfall, it could be a harbinger of what’s to come. At least that’s the argument that noted feminist author Jill Filipovic makes in Vice today.
Although it seems like ages, it was less than a month ago that Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty to making illegal payments to Trump’s mistresses — a crime in which Trump was an unindicted co-conspirator.
As Filipovic writes: “That was the clearest indication yet that Trump committed an illegal act during his campaign, and it had nothing at all to do with backroom deals with Russia.”
And coming up: Trump’s required answers to question in a defamation lawsuit from Summer Zervos, a former contestant on his reality show The Apprentice who says Trump sexually assaulted her in 2007.
Will Kavanaugh face a reckoning? Will Trump? If not, it will just make it that much harder to repair the damage the Trump era has done to the cause of women’s rights.
As Pollitt wrote, “the tremendous amount of collective work it took to create and maintain even the minimal norms of civility and respect for women has been undone. It won’t be so easy to rebuild those norms.”