Since Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford went public on Sunday, many of Kavanaugh’s conservative supporters have steadfastly refused to deem her sexual assault allegation credible. The most common response has been unconditional denial that Kavanaugh assaulted Ford — the line taken by the White House and the nominee himself.
Others have questioned whether, even if the allegations are true, they are a sufficient reason to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Stephen L. Miller, who writes opinion pieces for Fox News and the New York Post, described the sequence of events — Ford claims Kavanaugh dragged her into a room, held her down, groped her, and turned up music to muffle her cries — as “drunk teenagers playing seven minutes in heaven.”
To understand this aggressive response, you need only read a single short blog post. The piece, written by prominent conservative pundit Erick Erickson on his site the Resurgent, shows a picture of a fetus accompanied by the following short text (I’ve omitted nothing):
Erickson is insisting that this is about something he views as bigger than sexual assault and #MeToo. He sees a desperate power play aimed at preserving Roe v. Wade: Not only should Ford not be believed, but she must have political motivations because the stakes are so very high.
By casting a debate about sexual assault as a debate about abortion, Erickson reveals that he is the one seeing through the lens of abortion politics — along with much of the organized conservative movement.
Now, it’s the certainly the case that liberals are concerned about Roe’s fate. But sexual assault, and holding powerful men accountable for their actions, has become one of the top issues for the liberal movement in the #MeToo era — and the idea that we should believe accusers is one of the movement’s guiding principles. A Democratic senator, Al Franken, was forced to resign under pressure from his own colleagues after facing accusations of groping women. There’s just no evidence that the broader left doesn’t really care about the kind of allegations Kavanaugh is facing.
Erickson’s argument is classic projection. He sees the stakes as being the future of Roe, and appears to have formulated his views on the credibility of Ford’s allegations accordingly. He assumes his opponents have done the same, even though that’s not at all clear. In doing so, Erickson is revealing why the conservative reaction to the Kavanaugh allegations has been so volcanic — in unusually honest terms.
Despite the rhetoric of the Kavanaugh debate — in which conservatives downplayed the nominee’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade in order to court moderate senators — it’s obvious that Kavanaugh would likely be the decisive fifth vote to overturn abortion rights in America. Getting Kavanaugh on the court is the culmination of a decades-long project to overturn Roe v. Wade and push the country to the right. Many of the people committed to this project are not going to let an allegation of sexual assault — even a credible one — get in the way.