Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing to become a Supreme Court justice last week featured an arresting sight: a large group of young girls seated behind Kavanaugh wearing plaid jumpers and Peter Pan collars. These were girls from Blessed Sacrament School, where Kavanaugh coaches Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball.
The girls’ presence was buoyed by testimony from a mom at Blessed Sacrament who told the Senate Judiciary Committee that because “Coach K” was such a nice coach and volunteer for the parish, he obviously relates to “everyday Americans” like her.
But Blessed Sacrament sits on the border of Washington, DC, and Chevy Chase, Maryland, where the median income is between $200-$250K. There is nothing “everyday” about these Americans. I know, because I grew up among them.
Thirty years ago this week I began as a student at Blessed Sacrament. My family attended there for generations, and my grandparents were married there. Though I was raised by a single mom with nowhere near the median income—she found a way to pay tuition, and I was ecstatic to wear the the plaid jumper and Peter Pan collar. At BS I forged friendships and experiences I continue to hold dear. I played on the same CYO basketball teams that Kavanaugh now coaches, and developed core values of teamwork, discipline, and spirit. “Coach K” may be an effective coach. But to parade these young girls as a signal that he cares about women is not only disingenuous, it’s dangerous.
Kavanaugh was nominated by Donald Trump from a list provided by the Federalist Society in part because Kavanaugh will be bad for women. These conservative originalists do not consider the right to privacy to be inherent to the U.S. constitution, and oppose the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision that granted married women the right to access contraception and reliable reproductive healthcare services. Given his views on the power of the presidency, Kavanaugh will be good for Trump. Trump—who brags about sexual assault and silences porn stars—is no friend of women.
The truth is most of Kavanaugh’s views are wildly unpopular across the country. While Kavanaugh has praised Chief Justice Rehnquist’s dissenting opinion in Roe v. Wade, the large majority of Americans wants Roe to stand. Kavanaugh’s dissent in Garza v. Hargan, after he ruled against a 17-year old unaccompanied minor who sought an abortion, exposes how he could very likely serve to erode Roe. Kavanaugh means peril for women. No amount of wholesome young girls in plaid uniforms can serve as a counter-argument.
You don’t need to be a woman to fear Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Kavanaugh does not believe voter ID laws are rooted in racist motivation, and he has a clear record of rulings and dissents that limit collective bargaining rights and protect corporations from liability. (See Agri Processor Co. v. NLRB) His opinion on Bluman v. FEC left open the possibility of unlimited campaign spending from foreign nationals, and he will most likely build upon and expand Citizens United. This is not a man who relates to “everyday Americans.” This is a man who represents the interests of the privileged corporate elite, not people of color, immigrants, or workers.
The coded tribalism that equates the 1 percent with the “everyday” makes supporters of Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court complicit in structural economic oppression and systemic racism: structures and systems which Kavanaugh will be expected to serve, uphold, and edify.
When a black protestor was carried off by the police during the hearing, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana apologized to Kavanaugh: “I’m sorry your girls had to see this.” Then he addressed the girls directly, “This is not what democracy is supposed to look like.” The girls laughed nervously as the protestor was hauled away. This is backwards and terrifying, given that two essential cores of democracy are the right to peaceable assembly and the right to freedom of speech.
Actually, girls, what democracy is supposed to look like is a far cry from this sham of a hearing. Meantime, I really do wish you all the best on the basketball court. (Go Bulldogs!) Remember, though, that just because someone is nice to you, doesn’t mean he won’t strip away your rights to your own body or serve the forces that oppress you. When you wake up to this, and to the fact that we do not come from a community of “everyday Americans,” I pray there will be systems in place for you to call BS.