Yes, Ben Sasse, Kavanaugh Vote IS A Referendum On What You Think About Women.
Last night, Ben Sasse got up in front of the Senate and gave a very heartfelt speech that was simultaneously about how very bad he feels for women who have been sexually assaulted and also how very unfair it would be of anyone to suggest that voting for a man credibly accused of sexual assault by a number of women is some kind of "proxy" for how seriously Republicans care about women and victims of sexual assault.
Here is his full speech, I recommend watching it with some soft things around you that you can throw without damaging. A tissue box worked well for me.
Sasse talked and talked about how he knew women who had been sexually assaulted, how he didn't want his daughters to grow up in a world in which they would fear they would not be believed or taken seriously if they were to come forward about sexual assault -- and with every tear he shed, he echoed the same refrain about how this vote is just not really about that.
"But we're being told now that our vote is not about a specific individual, a specific seat or specific evidence, but rather we're being told that the choice before us in this confirmation is a much broader choice about whether we do or don't care about women."Let's be real clear about what is going on here. Republicans -- who were more than happy to go 14 months without nine justices after Antonin Scalia died in order to prevent Obama from putting someone else on the bench to replace him -- are now frantically trying to put a man who has been credibly accused of sexual assault on the Supreme Court bench as soon as possible so that he can be the deciding vote in taking away our reproductive rights.
I would say that has something to do with women.
I would say that this sends a message, loud and clear, to not only women who have been victims of sexual assault, but all women and all victims of sexual assault. That message is "We don't give a flying shit about you." It is "We are going to make you look at this man for the next several decades and every time you do, you are going to be reminded of how little you matter to us."
Ben Sasse got up on his "I'm a moderate when I talk but otherwise I am totally fine with everything my horrible party wants to do" high horse and lectured the country about the political circus and how sad it is, he thinks, that people are so divided right now, and can't we all just get along, and can't we all just pretend that his voting for Kavanaugh is a totally neutral decision.
It's not neutral. It wasn't neutral, Ben Sasse, when your party gleefully elected a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women and was accused of sexual assault by many others, and it is not neutral now. This is personal.
It is easy, I would imagine, for a rich white guy from Nebraska to not understand the ways in which the political is personal. Almost nothing that happens in the political arena is ever going to directly affect his life. He gets to act like he is above it all, because he is. He is able to look down upon all of us and say "Ugh, what are you all even fighting about? I am fine! Let's all get along!" Nothing is at stake for him. The rest of us are here, in the fray, fighting for our lives. We are all standing here, wondering how we are going to get through looking at that man's face and seeing him on the Supreme Court and knowing that he is going to be the one making decisions about our bodies and we are furious. We have a right to be. We have a right, also, to be furious at the political party that is so eager to subject us to this.
Sasse, naturally, also accused the Democratic Party of "exploiting" Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's experience and that of other sexual assault victims to score political points. Apparently, he considers it impossible that anyone could care about victims of sexual assault so much that they would actually make that a part of their political platform. As good as this may sound to the sort of people to whom issues like sexual assault don't matter so much that they'd actually change a vote over it, this is an argument that makes no damn sense. What is the nefarious end game here? "Democrats are just using these women's experiences to get you to vote for people who are going to support victims of sexual assault, or at least not sexually assault anyone themselves"? Or is it something more devious, like "Democrats are going to exploit these women's experiences in order to get you to vote for them, and then when you do, they're going to to make sure you have healthcare and also reproductive rights. LIKE MONSTERS."
He said that #MeToo belongs to neither the Right or the Left. Which is fair! It doesn't and it shouldn't. Republicans are not somehow exempt from being raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. One would think that this wouldn't have to be a thing that "divides" us -- as Sasse is so fond of saying -- but it is. Namely because, well, look who the goddamned president is. Look who the GOP is trying to get on the Supreme Court. Look who is going around trying to discredit Christine Blasey Ford. Hell, look who is going around trying to discredit basically every survivor that comes forward? Look who is mocking survivors. They all come from one end of the political spectrum, and whether Ben Sasse likes it or not -- that matters.
In fact, that is a large part of why this "divide" he is so very upset about exists in the first place. The "divide" is not political, it is personal. We are not bickering over the merits and failures of supply-side economics here. This is a divide between those who take joy in the suffering of others versus those who will suffer or who give a damn about those who will suffer.
There is no amount of verbal empathy that Ben Sasse can demonstrate that will make a vote for Kavanaugh okay -- existence precedes essence, we are defined by our actions, not our words. Should Kavanaugh be confirmed, it absolutely will send the message that Sasse denies it will send, and there is nothing he can say to change that. Because we will all know, forever, that when given the choice between nominating a man to the court who has been accused of sexual assault and maybe waiting a bit, nominating a new person, and risking losing out on the chance to control our reproductive functions to their hearts' content, they chose the former.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse