The unthinkable has happened: Brett Kavanaugh, an accused rapist and media pariah, has been confirmed to the Supreme Court as its 114th justice. It is shocking that the country has come to the point where political figures from every branch of government can ignore the voices of people across the country who have cried out at this injustice.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing demonstrated that if a woman accuses a man of sexual assault, her words might be discounted simply because the man is a “good guy” or “just made mistakes.” A culture of victim-blaming reigns in the U.S., one in which women are afraid to say they have been assaulted, which is exactly why it took so long for Dr. Ford and others to come forward. They knew their stories would be weighed against the stories of their assaulters, and at the end of the day their assaulters would likely be vindicated, leaving the survivors burdened with the emotional trauma of being questioned and accused of lying from every angle. Justice Kavanaugh’s trial has only confirmed the presence of this culture in America. If a justice can get away with sexual assault, what is to stop regular members of the public from thinking they can get away with the same thing?
The public also saw during Kavanaugh’s trial that the voices of women are less important in politics than the voices of men. The Republican senators who chose to allow Kavanaugh’s confirmation to move to the full Senate ignored the women who implored them to refuse to confirm Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh is not the only conservative the Republicans could have picked to take the recently retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s place. And yet, the Senate chose to confirm him even as three women accused the judge of sexual misconduct.
Conservatives, unsurprisingly, are thrilled with the five-to-four majority they now hold over the liberal Supreme Court justices. Kavanaugh’s predecessor, Kennedy, was a swing vote who could be counted on to vote with the progressive position on some cases; Kavanaugh is anticipated to be a strictly conservative vote. This means that conservative measures have a strong chance of being approved during this new era.
Currently, some of the biggest controversies in the country revolve around abortion/women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, gun control, immigration, affirmative action and presidential power. Cases regarding these topics will likely be pushed to the Supreme Court in the coming years, meaning that conservatives can force their views onto the nation.
There has been speculation that Kavanaugh could be a severe detriment to women’s rights by overturning cases such as Roe v. Wade, a major case that helped to legalize abortion. Conservatives are, for the most part, strictly against abortion, while many liberals, who tend to be pro-choice, worry that with Kavanaugh tipping the court in favor of conservatives Roe v. Wade might be overturned.
A reversal of the crucial finding would greatly set back women’s rights and would further show the disconnect between what the Supreme Court’s values are and what many women actually believe. Kavanaugh has said he respects the precedent of Roe, but refused to answer if he would overturn the ruling.
Plus, Kavanaugh’s trial already showed that sexual assault survivors and other women in America cannot trust that their voices will be heard in politics. Action on this issue could be one of Kavanaugh’s most infamous legacies.
With LGBTQ+ rights becoming a more important issue in today’s society, it is likely the Supreme Court will begin to see more cases where they have to make decisions in regard to them.
The court’s most recent decision allowed a Christian baker to refuse service to a gay couple based on his religious beliefs. With Kavanaugh creating a conservative majority on the court, LGBTQ+ rights could be further violated.
Gun control has also been a hot-button topic in the wake of recent shootings, with most liberals advocating for increased gun control measures and most conservatives arguing that gun control is already strict enough.
Kavanaugh falls in with the conservative line of thinking. While he was a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia, he disagreed with the majority opinion on a case that banned semiautomatic rifles in D.C. It is likely that stricter background checks and bans on rifles are not in the nation’s near future.
President Donald Trump has been vocal about immigration during his campaign and ever since he became president. In the past year, he tried to strike down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from being deported.
In February, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case about DACA, which has allowed it to survive for a little while longer. However, it is likely that another case involving DACA will soon be on the Supreme Court’s docket. Now that Kavanaugh is a justice, DACA could be overruled, ending protections for thousands of immigrants.
Although Kavanaugh refused to comment on his views during his Senate trial, it is widely believed that he will argue against affirmative action. Affirmative action is a policy that offers preferred admission to colleges for minorities.
It is a widely debated topic that is disliked by most conservatives, so in following the conservative agenda, Kavanaugh likely will be another vote against affirmative action should such a case appear in front of the court.
In terms of his views on presidential power, Kavanaugh was a perfect choice by the Trump administration.
In the past, Kavanaugh has written, “Congress might consider a law exempting a President — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.” This statement implies that should Trump be accused of a crime, Kavanaugh might argue that Trump should not be prosecuted or subpoenaed by a prosecutor.
Effect on the United States
Overall, with Kavanaugh as a justice, the nation is likely to see an increase in conservative decisions that could impact the country in the long-term.
As the population seems to become more liberal, the fact that the Supreme Court is continuing down the opposite path towards a strong conservative majority could cause further polarity in the nation.