Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
For ten days now, we have been obsessing over something that may have happened to a psychology professor 36 years ago when she was fifteen. According to Christine Ford, Judge Brett Kavanaugh pushed her into a room, groped her, tried to disrobe her, and put his hand over her mouth. Ford is vague on details like when and where, has named witnesses who contradict her, and lacks any other corroborating evidence. Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor invited to cross-examine Ford and Kavanaugh last week, said she couldn’t have even obtained a search warrant to investigate this charge if it had been made at the time, let alone 36 years later.
Welcome to the snowflake nation, where unsubstantiated and unprovable charges of an attempted “rape” that allegedly took place years ago are reported with hyperbolic emotional rhetoric seldom seen for actual rape or murder. Given the confirmed, devastating brutal abuse of women taking place every minute across the globe, including in the U.S., this obsession over an unsubstantiated claim just shows how spoiled and entitled many Americans are.
Of course, the obvious reason for the hysteria on display throughout the confirmation process is amoral politics. The progressive Dems know that their most powerful weapon is a Supreme Court that dismisses the Constitution as an archaic document that must be adapted to the conditions of modernity. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, they will lose that weapon for decades, and their program of creating a technocratic oligarchy that erodes individual and state freedom will be stopped.
More specifically, the attack on Kavanaugh is about Roe v. Wade, which the new justice is allegedly itching to overturn. On-demand legal abortion has become the most important achievement both for feminists and for progressives who politicize the Supreme Court in order to reject the Constitution and its Judeo-Christian foundations. The Roe v. Wade decision attacked the notion of natural rights beyond the power of the state by inventing a new “right to privacy” unmentioned in the Bill of Rights. It also weakened the critical components of the separation of powers. It usurped Article One’s investment of legislative power in Congress, and weakened the idea of federalism that reserved for the sovereign states those law-making powers beyond the few originally reserved for Congress. The assault on Kavanaugh has focused so passionately on Roe v. Wade and abortion in order to defend the victories won by the “living Constitution.”
Ideology and politics, then, lie at the heart of the attack on Kavanaugh. But Democrats must disguise their political aggrandizement of power by making the dubious claim that they are the sole defenders of women’s rights threatened by conservatives, who are embittered by their lost patriarchal power and privilege. Hence the progressive feminists have taken credit for the very real improvement of women’s lives, which in fact was mostly the fruit of classical liberal ideals like equality before the law, free market capitalism’s creation and wider distribution of wealth, and technologies that freed women from physical drudgery and nature’s ruthless reproductive imperative.
But to maintain their claim to be responsible for the improvement of woman’s lot, they have to gin up serial crises and threats to women that only progressive Democrats can stop. Lurid fantasies of “back alley abortions” and “coat-hangers” are used to frighten women, clumsy passes or regretted sexual encounters are transformed into criminal “sexual assault,” and fake statistics are used to create a “wage gap,” all dangers that apparently progressive Democrats can defend women against. Hence the elevated rhetoric of threat and victimhood confronting the richest and freest women who ever existed.
Victimhood, however, is also a reflex of the therapeutic sensibility that has elevated every subjective wound to one’s feelings into capital crimes. This has been the genius of progressivism’s concentration and expansion of centralized power. It has created a regime of political correctness to shelter the tender sensibilities of its constituents, but more importantly to increase progressive power to intrude into private life and weaken the freedom of expression of those challenging them. And the whole culture has gone along, partly because a permanent flaw of human nature is the desire to escape accountability for our actions by turning ourselves into passive victims of institutions or men or “unconscious bias” or genes. Then progressive feminists can leverage victims’ suffering into the power to shape government policy in accord with their leftist ideology.
Hence the unseemliness of the Kavanaugh hearings. While we have been reveling in self-righteous pity and anger over an allegation about a high school party in a rich neighborhood, less fortunate women and girls around the world are being brutalized, raped, kidnapped to be sold as slaves, murdered for refusing to become sex slaves, and living in conditions of squalor and violence. Yet our progressive feminists say nothing about these “sisters” mired in such truly horrific conditions.
Where, for example, is their concern for Egyptian actress Amal Fathy? She has just been sentenced to two years in prison for posting a Facebook video documenting her subjection to sexual harassment. This is part of a wider crackdown on and censorship of women who complain about the conditions of sexual apartheid in which they live. As the Wall Street Journal, reports,
In a 2013 United Nations survey, 99.3% of women in Egypt reported being been sexually harassed. A separate Egypt-U.N. joint study in 2015 found that 2.5 million women were sexually harassed in the streets in one year, as were 16,000 girls at schools. The study deems harassment to range from whistling and verbal abuse to rape.
Less than 1% of Egyptian women report sex-based violence to the police, who dismiss their claims or side with the harassers. And this is nothing compared to the experiences of women living in less developed countries, especially Muslim ones where subordination and abuse of women, especially Christian women, are validated by faith and tradition.
But how often do we hear the same feminists who elevate a decades-old, unsubstantiated charge of assault into a career- and reputation-ending offense, say anything about the widespread documented violent physical and sexual abuse of women? Instead, American feminists make an outcast of true feminist heroine Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has risked her life to speak out against genital mutilation of women, and their lack of human rights under sharia law. Instead they lavish praise on a woman who can’t even remember the place, location, and month of an alleged sexual assault, nor how she arrived or returned home from the alleged party.
As Brett Kavanaugh is enduring his seventh FBI investigation, and his nomination still hangs in the balance, the questions for us are these: Will the progressive Democrats get away with shamelessly smearing a man with the “big lie,” all for political gain? And are we now a nation of snowflakes, moved to exaggerated pity and outrage over a charge no prosecutor in the real world would touch?
Many of the Republicans in the Senate appear to be snowflake enablers. Even when they vigorously defend Kavanaugh and decry the Democrats’ rank politicization of the confirmation process, they are very careful to safeguard the tender sensibilities of a grown, upper-class, professional woman and validate the traumatization she tells us she’s suffered 36 years ago. Even if Republicans are doing so to show that conservatives also care for women, or to give cover to Senators afraid to vote for Kavanaugh, the mere fact that they feel compelled to preempt charges of “sexism” or “insensitivity” testifies to how deeply the feminist narrative is embedded in our culture. These Republicans obviously think a majority of US citizens, especially women, buy into the claim that a woman’s interpretation of a sexual encounter, no matter how long ago and unsubstantiated, must be credited and acknowledged with copious expressions of sympathy and outrage against the alleged abuser.
But outside the upper-class cultural cocoon, it may be the case that millions of Americans don’t buy into the narrative. They see the socio-economic biases in feminist ideology that reflect the sensibilities of the entitled professional and upper classes. They know that women are not the helpless snowflakes and weak sisters who can’t fend for themselves, and so have to depend on the punitive power of the state to replace the mores like chivalry, and the champions like fathers and brothers who once punished sexually predatory men for dishonoring their sisters and daughters. More important, they get that true justice must put the burden of proof on the accuser, whose claims must be substantiated with evidence, not taken on faith or bombastic emotion.
Are those Americans still the norm, or are they a doomed remnant? Are we all snowflakes now to be controlled and managed by the nanny state, or are most of us still committed to the ordered liberty of our Constitution, and the ancient wisdom that perfection is a dream, and a utopian world of absolute freedom without any cost or responsibility is impossible?
We’ll have a better idea of the answer to that question in five weeks, when the fate of Brett Kavanaugh, and the fate of Congress, will both be known. Either freedom and common sense will be reaffirmed, or they will be further weakened, perhaps fatally.