Political motivations shouldn’t outshine sexual assault allegations

By Palmer Brigham | Guest Columnist

Allow me to admit my bias. I want another conservative on the Supreme Court, because I want someone to uphold my values in the highest court in the United States. However, I do not believe dismissing sexual assault allegations is a value I uphold. I do not want to turn a blind eye to real concerns for political motivations.

News broke that Justice Anthony Kennedy was retiring on June 26, leaving a second Supreme Court vacancy for President Donald Trump to fill. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s name was added to the short list for potential nominees only a few days later. On July 9, Trump announced Kavanaugh as his nominee. Shortly thereafter, Kavanaugh started meeting with senators on Capitol Hill in preparation for confirmation hearings. However, with a Republican majority in the Senate, and only a simple majority vote required to confirm or reject a nominee, this was supposed to be a done deal.

The only apparent hiccup on the horizon occurred when Democrats demanded Kavanaugh’s paper trail from his time as White House counsel. I assumed this to be Democrats’ only ammunition to stall the inevitable: a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. On Aug. 10, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa announced confirmation hearings would commence on Sept. 4. Kavanaugh’s confirmation still appeared inevitable.

However, another chain of events was developing at the same time. On July 6, Kavanaugh’s former high school classmate, Christine Blasey Ford contacted her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo of California, with a story about how the potential Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted her at a party 36 years ago. Ford’s phone call was returned on July 9. Subsequently, she met with Eshoo and the congresswoman’s staff over the next few days. Representative Eshoo’s office delivered a copy of a letter from Ford to Sen. Diane Feinstein of California on July 30, which she would not share without Ford’s consent. Ford decided to come forward in The Washington Post on Sept. 16. A week later, Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27.

As this news story came out, I struggled with this realization that a once sure thing was up for debate. I found myself wondering if these claims were even real or just political maneuvering. I questioned how much can be known in a he-said, she-said situation. I even wrongly doubted whether something that occurred over 35 years ago was relevant. After watching the hearings and scouring different news sites, I would argue the timing of the release was a political ploy, but it does not diminish the reality of the importance of this revelation. Rather, the traction this issue has gained has made it unavoidable.

The tides of change are rising. Women are speaking out against sexual assault and changing the culture that pervades this act of dehumanization. But if this #MeToo movement is going to mean something, its rules have to apply all the time. If we are going to condemn the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Larry Nassar for sexual assault allegations, we cannot promote someone with similar allegations to the highest level of preserving and promoting justice.

However, this isn’t only a women’s rights issue, it’s a character issue. While I don’t believe the choices one makes at 17 reflects one’s character at 50, I think admitting someone surrounded by these claims to the Supreme Court sets a precedent far before the ones he will set as a justice.

Past actions still have consequences. We can’t raise a generation under the impression that it’s okay to disrespect others in their youth, as long as they dedicate the following decades to respectful living.

This character problem isn’t limited to the upper level politicians of Washington or the media industry. This pain gripping the nation hits close to home after Baylor’s own struggles with how to respond to sexual assault.

When news of Ford’s alleged assault broke out, it created a feeling that echoed familiarly, “This isn’t the Baylor I knew; this isn’t the Supreme Court nominee I trusted.”

It’s easy to deny doubting the things we believe in so strongly. Institutions, such as Baylor University and the Supreme Court, have values attached to them in which people should be able to place their trust. The only solution is to live above reproach, treating everyone with the human dignity God has instilled in His creation.

Palmer is a senior professional writing major from Augusta, Ga.