In a private ceremony in the Supreme Court in Washington DC, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. This took place just after his confirmation on Saturday afternoon 6 October – Kavanaugh was confirmed by a vote of 50 to 48. The confirmation saw many protesters arrested for interrupting the vote.
Brett Kavanaugh has faced sexual assault allegations from Dr Christine Blasey Ford, which he’s denied. While the vote was a narrow one, the fact remains that 50 senators voted in favour of a likely sexual predator. US President Donald Trump recently made the statement that it’s a ‘very scary time for young men in America’, revealing exactly who he thinks the victims are.
What this means
Writing for the Daily Maverick, J Brooks Spector explains: ‘In voting for his confirmation by the narrowest of margins – 50 to 48, plus one absent and one present – the Senate publicly demonstrated to the nation and the world that there is a vast chasm between two halves of American society. This is not simply one that splits Democrats from Republicans, or men from women. And the resulting fissure will have all too real implications for American electoral politics, as well as broader societal impacts.’ His appointment means that President Trump has now secured a conservative majority in the Supreme Court. This means we can expect a ‘veer to the right’ on important judgements made by the court, as Brett Kavanaugh has a swing vote as the 9th Justice. The way his votes influence the court could set precedent in the USA and worldwide.
Swimming against the tide
In light of the US president’s stance on sexual assault, it was unsurprising that most senators chose to vote along party lines, but one senator’s brave refusal to do so was a powerful revelation:
According to The Cut, North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp voted against Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. In a surprising decision that may well lose her a great deal of power in a right-leaning state, the senator gave the following explanation:
‘When I listened to Dr Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I have known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse… Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted — and expressed the same anguish and fear.’
Although Heidi Heitkamp’s resistance was not enough to swing the balance, her very public statement remains an important voice.
Response so far
The confirmation was met with outrage from concerned Americans during and after the vote. According to Refinery29, senior advisor to the Women’s March, Winnie Wong, was quoted as saying the following during the vote:
‘If they think we will be silenced by a bunch of patriarchal men screaming order to take our rights away, they have another thing coming… Our time of behaving is long over. Justice Kavanaugh better get used to protests and disruptions, because he is going to have us fighting every step of the way for the rest of his time on the bench. Shame on everyone who supported him. Dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and millions of strong American women are ready to mobilise more than any time in history.’
Many more protests and marches are on the cards in the USA following the outrage at Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. In the wake of the one-year anniversary of #MeToo, this disheartening news shows how much work still needs to be done.