The vote to confirm Donald Trump’s U.S Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, marked a significant turning point in America’s political history. Kavanaugh was a judge who had been accused of sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour towards women during his formative years in high school and university. He was voted by the Senate, with a slim margin, to sit on the highest court in the United States.
What seems absurd, is that we are living in inherently tribal times culturally and politically that has not managed to move the needle this time. A year ago, powerful men were exposed as sexual harassers by swathes of women who used a newfound liberating platform, known as the #MeToo movement, for their voices to be heard. In 2016, the U.S elected a demagogic and rogue president whose rhetoric on women has been testy. Trump himself has been accused of sexual misconduct, and was infamously caught on tape bragging about groping women.
One powerful woman in particular, U.S Senator Susan Collins, let down all women she claims to vouch for. She has proved that we have learnt nothing from this past year. She has proved that we are quick to forget the 1991 testimony by Anita Hill, who accused then nominated Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Thomas, like Kavanaugh, was confirmed to the court. Collins, a self-identifying pro-choice and liberal Republican, has defied her cause for the destruction of an errant patriarchy. As a U.S Senator for Maine, she voted ‘yes’.
Beforehand, Collins had been a consistent detractor of Trumpian conservatism. She became an arch critic of the current president, alongside her Senate allies, Lisa Murkowski and the late John McCain. Collins and Murkowski have faced the wrath from hard-line Trump supporters, particularly when they voted against his plan to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act without a replacement. Secondly, Collins has always espoused a pro-choice rhetoric by believing in a woman’s right to legal abortion access. This stance has seen repudiation from her hard-right colleagues.
Unlike Collins, Senator Murkowski was the lone Republican to vote “no” in Kavanaugh’s nomination. She condemned Kavanaugh on his “temperament and demeanour” after witnessing his rage-fuelled and highly emotional testimony. Unlike her companion, Collins’s reasoning for her vote is implausible compared to the narrative she has always preached. In her speech to the Senate, Collins backed Kavanaugh because ‘decisions become part of our legal framework with the passage of time and that honouring precedent is essential to maintaining public confidence’.
How does she expect an outspoken conservative judge to uphold the law by voting to keep abortion rights accessible? Especially when he spluttered during his confirmation hearing when asked by Democrats whether he believed women should have freedom of choice. Furthermore, Collins believed that there was insufficient evidence and very few witnesses to corroborate Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s claims. Ford was the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault by testifying to the judiciary committee. This statement is corrupt. A significant witness was excluded from the rushed and time-limited FBI investigation. Republicans spout on about “due process” when investigating the accused, but show little signs of impartiality and fairness when doing so.
The thing that is most outrageous about Susan Collins’s “yes” vote is that her trajectory on women’s rights has shifted. In a recent report from The Hill, it is claimed “just under half of GOP women polled, 49 percent, said Kavanaugh should be confirmed”. In a recent Guardian article, ‘nearly half of Republican women (48%) said they would consider voting for an (accused) candidate. That’s compared to just 14% of Democratic women”.
To be a pro-choice Republican with the intent to fight the feminist cause in a historically misogynistic party, you must listen to the constituents. If under half of Republican women have faith in Kavanaugh, then Susan Collins has not listened. Now that he sits on the highest court of the most powerful land, Collins’s pro-female position will never be looked at the same.