The progressive left accomplished something I thought might never happen again — they have united all of the factions within the Republican Party a month before an important election, without doing anything to unite their own factions.
White progressives are hopping mad and ready to vote. But they were hopping mad and ready to vote in Spring 2017. The Democrats did nothing during the Kavanaugh hearings to recover their blue-collar base, noncollege educated voters, Latinos or African-American voters. Meanwhile, Ryan/Romney center-right voters, Trump populists, Freedom Caucus voters, and Libertarians are all united and anxious to vote.
The left has its narrative of the Kavanaugh chapter in American history. It misses completely the fundamental motivation of the right. Even my friend Dan Balz, who I think usually gets things right (even if I don’t always like it), failed to understand in his column this week that the thing that angered the right the most was the idea that for the left, the ends justify the means — that they would say anything, do anything and make up anything in the pursuit of power. Lindsey Graham’s explosive speech in the Senate Judiciary Committee really did capture what the right felt. And then, while less explosive, Sen. Susan Collins’ speech on the floor of the Senate was a lawyerly masterpiece of laying out the case for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Graham captured the emotions and Collins captured the logic.
The left is willfully blind if they think conservative women, blue-collar women and other women in the Republican coalition don’t understand sexual harassment and sexual assault. Almost every woman I talk to does — and far too many have personal experiences with harassment and assault. They just did not think there was sufficient evidence in what Dr. Ford said to sacrifice Brett Kavanaugh on the progressive altar of postmodern religion.
Postmodernism is a disease infecting American politics that was born on the left. Anyone who understands philosophy knows this. It essentially says that there is no such thing as truth, and that the only purpose of language is to advance the “will to power.” In other words, if you can get away with it, you can say anything you want, make up any narrative you desire, if it advances your drive for power. It is the opposite of traditional conservatism and traditional liberalism which are anchored in the Constitution and the objective truths it protects. Populists on the right have learned to play the postmodernist game, which is part of the cause of conservative angst with Trump. As Jonah Goldberg points out in his book “Suicide of the West,” liberal constitutional democracy is not the natural state of being — civilization is not the natural state of being for humankind. Civilization and liberal (“small L”) democracy stand against the natural state of humanity which is raw power. Postmodernism, in overthrowing the moral boundaries imposed by religion, objective truth and inalienable rights, seeks to return us to the state of pure power — where whoever amasses the most power wins.
Of course, this makes President Trump appear to the political right as the person who will play the brass knuckles power game against the progressive left. The Bush family, Romney, Ryan and the core of the establishment Republican Party — my wing of the party — believe in liberal democracy and adhere to the rules of civility. But if truth is no longer the common reference point, no longer the referee of what is and is not allowed, then the centrists of both parties will get run over by postmodernists on both sides. This will be a bad thing in the long run — it’s a bad thing now. But from today’s political point of view, it leaves Donald Trump, Twitter account and stump speeches included, as the person defending the right against the postmodernist left through political power generated by the intensity of his followers. In many ways, it now appears Trump genuinely understood the populist left and the vulnerability of the center to its tactics, before anyone else, and that is why he is president.
Dr. Ford was clearly used by Sen. Chuck Schumer and friends who had run out of legitimate arrows in their quiver. The “normal” hearings produced nothing that would defeat Kavanaugh on the Senate floor. So, the Democratic leaders in the Senate — I am surmising — asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein if there was anything else that could be used. She produced the letter. But these Democratic leaders decided to put Ford on parade to serve their own purposes, not hers. The fact that Ford was not aware of the offer for her testimony to be taken in private is inconceivable unless her lawyers and the Democrats’ Judiciary Committee staff hid this from her. What’s more, by lumping her in with the two other women who had no reasonable evidence or even remembrance of the events they accused Kavanaugh of, they further undermined Ford’s personal story.
The Jacobin-like acceptance of all three accusations as truth, without the need for evidence, was the same enthusiasm for blood that African-Americans in the South so often experienced when accused of looking at a white girl or dating a white girl. Just the accusation against a black man that he raped a white woman was enough to justify murder by lynching in the minds of segregationists and racists for decades in our history. How did the United States stop that? By enforcing the rule of law and by applying equal justice under the law. It was a victory of objective truth and Constitutionalism that ended lynchings and Jim Crow laws. The strength of our Constitution is seen when it protects the unpopular against the mob — when it enforces the rule of law for any person, no matter their popularity with the majority.
This is the essence of our American legal system that is nurtured and defended by the Supreme Court. It has often protected Americans who were unprotected by civil society by extending the understanding of Constitutional truth. This is what the Kavanaugh hearings should have been about. God help us if these postmodern Jacobins ever get unchecked power.
Mark Strand lives in Washington, D.C.