What the Kavanaugh Scandal Says About America

Despite the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the GOP still hasn’t withdrawn its nomination. What does this scandal say about America?

Photo Illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault by three different women, one of whom said that she witnessed his efforts to inebriate girls so they could be “gang raped.” His first accuser, Christine Ford, recalled thinking that he may “inadvertently” kill her while trying to attack her and remove her clothing. Deborah Ramirez, his second accuser, says she had felt “mortified.” Despite these allegations — and Kavanaugh’s notorious record for lying under oath at past confirmation hearings — the GOP still hasn’t withdrawn its nomination of him nor have they delayed their vote. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would would be appointed to serve on the highest court for life — and he would be the second Supreme Court justice to have a sexual assault allegation against him.

To discuss the implications of Kavanaugh’s nomination and what this scandal says about America, Mehdi Hasan is joined by The Intercept’s Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim, whose story on Christine Ford’s letter to Sen. Feinstein opened the door to the allegations against Kavanaugh; and by senior correspondent Naomi Klein, recently appointed the Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University.

Naomi Klein: This is the thing about the intersection of alcohol and drugs and sexual assault: the whole this rigged to prevent women from coming forward.

Ryan Grim: Everything relies on the Supreme Court, which makes it entirely rational to say, “I would rather have an axe murderer who is going to vote my way than have a Boy Scout who is going to vote against me.”

[Musical interlude.]

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome to Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan and those were the voices of my Intercept colleagues, Ryan Grim and Naomi Klein. They’re my guests today as we discuss what’s become the biggest story in the United States right now: the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Republican judge Brett Kavanaugh, and the growing number of sexual assault allegations against him.

It’s a story with a new twist and turn almost every day. Just hours before we came into this recording studio, we learned of a third woman, Julie Swetnick, who has signed a sworn affidavit accusing Kavanaugh of sexually aggressive behavior at alcohol-fueled parties when he was in high school, and who basically has just stopped short of calling him a rapist.

News Anchor: Swetnick alleges, “I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh, and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could be gang-raped in a side room or a bedroom by trains of numerous boys.”

MH: Before I got into all that, I do want to say something about the Supreme Court as a whole, as someone who hasn’t lived here all my life. I’m a Brit, I’m an immigrant to your great country, but I’ll tell you what: There are a lot of weird things about living in the U.S., a lot of things I find very weird about living and working here: turning right at a red light, I find that very odd. It’s been hard to get used to that; we don’t do that in the UK. The sheer number of breakfast cereals that are on offer in the grocery stores is something that still befuddles me.

And then, of course, there’s your gun culture — really, really weird; open-carry laws in Virginia where I live, haven’t been able to get past that.

But one of the really weird institutions in this country is the United States Supreme Court, which is so odd and is such an aberration when it comes to supreme courts around the world. I’m sorry if I have to break this to you, in case you’re unaware of it, but most other Western liberal democracies don’t have supreme courts like the United States Supreme Court. They don’t have courts that are as powerful as the US Supreme Court, where justices are appointed for life, and they’re appointed in a partisan and politicized way, and when they’re on the Court, they rule, not in a disinterested or impartial way, but in a nakedly partisan or politicized way, so you’re able to say: “Oo, the five conservatives” or “the four liberals on the Court.”

That’s weird! Other supreme courts don’t operate like that in France, in Canada, in the United Kingdom where I’m from. So, when I look at your Supreme Court as a whole, this ridiculously powerful institution, personally I’d scrap the whole thing and start again. It doesn’t work; it hasn’t worked certainly since 2000, when they basically stole an election for the Republican party, how we forget about that.

Look, if I was the Democrats, as at least a fix, I’d consider adding justices. Not just blocking Kavanaugh or whoever they bring maybe to replace Kavanaugh, but if the Democrats take control of the House and the Senate and the Presidency, I’d just add justices to the Court to balance out the conservative bias.

Now you might say: “Well, that’s court packing. That’s illegitimate.” Not true, it’s not illegitimate, you can change the numbers on the Supreme Court. And you know what? The Republicans have already packed the court. They stole a Supreme Court seat from Barack Obama. Remember Merrick Garland? Remember a guy called Neil Gorsuch, who now sits on the Supreme Court? That is court packing.

So, personally and we’re going to talk about it in the discussion today, what can the Democrats do to take a slightly stronger line when it comes to pushing back against the Republican trampling of judicial, constitutional, political norms.

But let’s talk specifically about the man of the moment, Brett Kavanaugh, fresh from a Fox News chat in which he denied all the allegations against him, presented himself as a bit of a choir boy, not to mention a virgin, right into university — as if that’s a defense against sexual assault.

Look, the man is a liar. He’s a liar! He’s lied about his knowledge of torture and surveillance while working in the Bush White House. He’s lied about what he did with stolen Democratic Party memos. He’s lied about his position on abortion on Roe v. Wade. In fact, he lied the very first time he was unveiled to the nation by President Trump at the White House on July 9.

Brett Kavanaugh: No president has ever consulted more widely or talked with more people from more backgrounds to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination.

MH: Um … that’s a barefaced lie, obviously. So, given all his history of lying, why shouldn’t we believe these three named women — three women who have come forward with such serious accusations against him.

There’s Christine Ford.

News Anchor: I thought he might inadvertently kill me. He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.

MH: There’s Deborah Ramirez.

News Anchor: I can still see his face, his hips coming forward like when you pull up your pants, and someone yelled down the hall, “Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face.”

MH: And then there’s Julie Swetnick, whose story emerged today.

News Anchor: In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these gang or train rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.

MH: Yeah. Train rape. That’s the latest accusation against the man that the Republican Party wants to put on the Supreme Court of the United States for life. For life!

In fact, by the time this show airs, you know what? Kavanaugh’s name might already have been withdrawn from the process. The Republicans have backed him till now, and not given a shit about the seriousness of these allegations, preferring to conspiratorially blame the Democrats or to smear the women who have come forward, but this is now, forgive me, a trainwreck. This is a complete catastrophe for the Republicans — not just in terms of the electoral impact of being so anti-women and so pro-sexual assault, but also in terms of the process and what the Democrats are willing to do to try and stop them.

Remember, there was a time when we were told that Brett Kavanaugh would be a shoo-in? Not so much now.

The thing is that Republicans aren’t going to give up so easily. They want to control the Supreme Court. They’ve already stolen one seat and they’re not going to give up this one.

So where do we go from here? And what can the Democrats do to fight back on an issue of such importance? As I say, this isn’t just about Brett Kavanaugh or sexual assault, important though that story is. This is about the future of the United States, about economic equality, racial equality, social justice — all of which will be severely undermined, severely challenged by a conservative-dominated Supreme Court locked in for 40 or 50 years by a president who didn’t win the popular vote and who has also, by the way, been credibly accused of sexual assault.

[Musical interlude.]

MH: I’m joined now in the studio by Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept. He broke the story on September 12, headlined: “Dianne Feinstein Withholding Brett Kavanaugh Document From Fellow Judiciary Committee Democrats,” which burst open the door to all of these allegations against Kavanaugh that we have today, starting with Christine Ford.

And, from Rutgers University where she is the new Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media Culture and Feminist Studies, the bestselling author and senior correspondent for The Intercept, Naomi Klein.

Ryan, Naomi, thanks both for taking time out for Deconstructed.

RG: Yeah!

NK: Great to be with you.

MH: Ryan, you — tell us about a story that you broke open, that kicked open this whole Brett Kavanaugh-is-a-sexual-assaulter chain of events that has led us to this point now where three different named women have accused him of all sorts of grotesque things.

RG: Right. So it starts in July when Christine Blasey Ford begins telling her friends that she’s been thinking hard about a huge decision and that she was going to come forward and tell her story about being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. At the time, she wrote to her member of Congress, Anna Eshoo, and a few weeks later she also wrote to Dianne Feinstein. Ronan Farrow and Jane Meyer reported that that Feinstein thought that the allegations were too old to make a difference — it was dated back to high school — and also that she wanted to have the fight over Kavanaugh to be a legal one rather than a “personal one.”

And as she saw Kavanagh’s confirmation sailing through, she felt like, “what’s the point of you know destroying my own life when it looks like they’re just going to confirm this guy anyway?” So, after the hearing is completed, they’ve gone back and forth — that Friday the rumors start bubbling up a little bit more on the Hill. Over the weekend it starts to become what’s known as “Hill Public,” you know that people are just whispering to each other, you know, there’s this — there’s this allegation out there.

MH: And you were hearing these whispers.

RG: I heard about it Monday morning. And as I called around more, I was able to narrow it down to: OK, now Dianne Feinstein has a letter that contains some allegations and is not sharing it with members of the Judiciary Committee. Without knowing precisely what the allegations were, ’cause I heard several different versions from the one that did come out to much more mundane, I was able to report the story that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee requested access to this letter, private access, so they could review it and make their own judgment over whether it should be pursued, either by the FBI or by their own staff or that they should reach out to the victim.

MH: Do you believe that if you hadn’t broken this story, that Feinstein would have sat on it and we would never have heard of Christine Blasey Ford?

RG: So, I’ve wondered that — because the answer to that question is: “Well, would another news outlet eventually have gotten to it.” And I haven’t had any reporters come up to me yet, and say: I was just about to break that story. A lot of reporters were chasing the allegations themselves — like, they knew that they were allegations out there —

MH: But not a specific person and a specific letter.

RG: I think Farrow appears to have spoken to her in July, and then at some point she decided she didn’t want to go on the record, and so when reporters couldn’t confirm the underlying allegations, they didn’t report the story of the letter.

MH: Which is so interesting, because of course the Republican narrative of the Senate Judiciary Committee members: This is all a Democratic plot to bring down our Golden Boy, these are last minute allegations late in the day, and yet, as your reporting shows, a. the politicians, the Democrats, were not trying to push her out into the open, Feinstein was possibly sitting on this. And journalists, as usual investigative reporters were doing scrupulous reporting and finding — you know, not just throwing these women out there and saying, “Hey, we found someone who may or may not have been assaulted.”

RG: Right, and I think Feinstein did not have plans to release this.

MH: I do want to come back to Feinstein and the Democrats in just a moment — just bringing in Naomi: What do you make of all this craziness that you have witnessed over the past couple of weeks?

NK: Well, I mean, every woman I talk to is in, you know, slightly, just a dazed state, because a lot of this, I don’t know any women for whom this doesn’t bring up some kind of memories of behavior in high school and university and — you know, one of the things that I think is really interesting that’s going on now is the willingness of women to come forward, without, you know, a perfect memory.

And this is the thing about the intersection of alcohol and drugs and sexual assault it’s that, you know, the whole thing is rigged to prevent women from coming forward, because we have been told that, you know, if there are any holes in our memory they were completely un-credible, you know, witnesses. And so I think it’s been interesting to see these women come forward in this incredibly high-stakes arena and admit to the holes in their memory, admit to their own feelings of shame.

You know I think the most important thing is that we’re that we have these precedents in such a high-stakes arena for women coming forward who are not this sort of perfect victim but still saying, “That doesn’t justify being sexually assaulted.” So I think that’s really important.

And the other thing, I think, it’s just kind of amazing watching Kavanaugh in all of this is. You know, he seems sort of genuinely surprised that the people he has encountered through his, you know, climb to these heights of power continue to exist as human beings, despite his having, you know, no longer having any use for them —

MH: I mean he seems to be a genuinely shitty person, and I’ve thought that from before the sexual assault allegations, when he wouldn’t shake the hand of the father of the Parkland victim, which seemed to me to be a pretty shitty thing to do.

NK: Well, he is an absolute hack. I mean, Ryan can speak on this better than me, but, I mean he is just the essence of a partisan hack who will take diametrically opposite legal positions depending on whether there’s a Republican or a Democrat in power, right?

MH: Which makes him a perfect Republican nominee.

NK: Exactly.

MH: Just before we get — I do want to move onto the Republicans and the amorality and hypocrisy of all this — but just to hear what you mentioned about the women coming forward, do you think that Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination would be on the line, and by the time this show comes out, maybe his nomination is already withdrawn, who knows, at this rate, the way events are moving, do you think his job, his nomination would be on the line were it not for the Me Too movement, the Me Too phenomenon and what it has achieved in recent years?

NK: It isn’t only about Me Too. It’s also about Anita Hill; I mean it goes back much further than that. You know, Me Too is the latest chapter in a very long story of women coming forward and challenging these norms and saying, “This is not normal.”

Look, it’s a little bit hard to say because this story is not over. As you say, he may withdraw his nomination. But the other thing that may happen is these women may get destroyed on the stand. So we don’t know what’s going to happen.

MH: Ryan, just very quickly on the technical side of this: If his nomination is withdrawn this week, and we’re speaking on Wednesday afternoon, if it is withdrawn, can the Republicans jam through someone else before the midterms or even in the lame-duck period before January?

RG: They certainly could, I mean just from a technical, legal, kind of parliamentary perspective, they could. And, if they can, then I think you have to believe that Mitch McConnell is going to do everything, you know, that he can to get that done, which, at this point would require going directly to Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and saying, “Here are the people we’d like to nominate.”

MH: These Republican senators who pretend to be dissidents.

RG: “Tell us which of these you’re going to vote for.”

MH: Would it be a woman? Surely it has to be a woman, Ryan. It has to be a Republican. Can they find a Republican woman, to?

RG: Trump wants somebody from central casting, he always talks about how he wants somebody from central casting; in his mind, there are no women in central casting when it comes to the Supreme Court. Amy Barrett, who everybody floats as the person that they suspect will be thrown in for all of the obvious reasons that you and I and Naomi would understand, is not somebody who’s liked by Trump. She was not nice to him; she didn’t flatter him in their meeting.

MH: But she would be the logical choice, I don’t know very much about her, but —

RG: Yes and no, she is —

MH: She is the logical choice because you won’t have to immediately go and look for a high school yearbook for her, to get dirt on her, like you would for any other male appointee.

RG: However, a. Trump doesn’t like her, b. She’s much more stridently anti-Roe, and it would — make?

NK: Right, so you don’t get Collins, right?

RG: Exactly.

MH: So, interesting — I’m just turning the issue to the Republicans and how they’ve handled it. And they’ve, I mean there’s a lot of talk about have they harmed themselves with suburban women voters, et cetera. I’m not sure I buy into all that, to be honest, I mean a majority of white women sadly voted for Trump at the last election despite the tape.

RG: Yeah, but their numbers are crashing in the polls.

MH: That is true. So let’s hope it helps. But there is a bigger point here about the Republicans for me which is that whether or not they believe the women, and you hear Orrin Hatch smearing Deborah Ramirez who’s the second woman from The New Yorker, and I hear him smearing these women and I think: I don’t even know if they do or don’t believe the women, but the point is they don’t seem to care. Because fundamentally, for them, that’s not what the Supreme Court is about. It’s not about getting an honorable person on the Court; it’s not even about protecting your school friends. It’s about keeping that conservative majority before the Democrats get in. They stole the seat from Obama for Gorsuch and now they don’t want to let this seat go because this is their moment to change United States for 40, 50, 60, 70 years. It’s a momentous, lifetime appointment — I find that bizarre as well. I’m from a country that doesn’t have lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court, nor is Naomi. Most Western democracies don’t have this bizarre supreme court system, Ryan, that you do where you put someone on, and that’s it. They’re virtually untouchable.

RG: Which makes it entirely rational to say, “I would rather have an axe murderer who’s going to vote my way —”

MH: For 40 years.

RG: “than have a Boy Scout who’s going to vote against me.” So, everything relies on the Supreme Court, and so everything gets thrown out for the utility of it.

MH: Naomi, you’re famous for writing about how the Right has ruthlessly exploited crises and disasters to push its economic and social agendas. Do you see a bit of that phenomenon playing out right now with the Supreme Court nomination, because it’s all about just cementing that majority by any means necessary?

NK: Well, in the sense that Trump is just a rolling disaster, I suppose. No, I mean, I think this is it just exactly what you said Mehdi, which is that they would rather risk the credibility of the entire Court in front of the entire world than run the risk of losing this one seat.

And they wouldn’t even necessarily lose that one seat, but you know, the stakes are that high. Yeah, I think they probably will ditch him and I think it is worth remembering that the stakes are not — they are about women’s right to control our bodies. It’s also about the fact that this is an incredibly pro-corporate court and the stakes, here, I think have to do with protecting a plutocracy more than anything else.

MH: I think you’re spot on there. I just want to read out a line from a recent New York Magazine piece by Eric Levitz where he points out that over the past decade, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority has cleared the way for unlimited corporate spending in American elections; vetoed laws aimed at limiting the influence of such spending; gutted the Voting Rights Act; immunized prosecutors who withhold evidence from legal accountability restricted the capacity of consumers and workers to sue corporations; hobbled public sector unions and came within a single vote of vetoing the most significant expansion of the American welfare state, Obamacare, on a flimsy pretense. So, yes, this is about ideology, isn’t it Ryan. This is not just about, as important as the issues of sexual assault and character and holding men accountable are, this is also about the big picture of — this is another step in the Republican Party’s and the corporate takeover of the United States public space.

RG: Yes, and the Federalist Society ideology is such a manufactured, unnatural way of viewing the world.

MH: This is the right-wing legal group that nominates, that suggests these names Donald Trump.

RG: That you have to produce it in this kind of platonic commune where you’ve got these prep school kids that are swaddled with this ideology from birth. You know, Kavanaugh’s mother was a, you know, top Republican in the Reagan administration. You can’t go out to Oklahoma and find people who just naturally, stumble upon a Federalist Society ideology.

NK: Same with Gorsuch, by the way.

RG: Precisely, precisely. That’s why they can only go to this this prep school world.

MH: Gorsuch also, by the way — Georgetown Prep.

RG: Georgetown Prep. Roberts, I don’t know exactly which one, but that milieu. And that’s Barrett’s problem, too — she’s from Indiana or something like that. So, you can be a wacko right-winger, but you won’t have the precise aristocratic element of it that is needed to produce the full Federal Society ideology.

MH: And given you have this powerful ideology, you have these powerful interests, we know what we’re up against. What I find so frustrating and I want to ask both of you about this is: What does the left, if you can call the Democrats the left or the opposition to Republicans the Democrats, what do they do when confronted with these odds, with these obstacles with Republicans like Grassley and Hatch who were willing to, and McConnell who are willing to trample on any norm to get their people in power, to get ahead?

I often use this phrase, I know a lot of other people do: The Democrats bring a knife to a gunfight; the Republicans bring a rocket launcher. Is that fair, Naomi?

NK: Well, I mean coming back to where we started this conversation and the fact that it was a powerful Democrat that was sitting on this information, right? But, thankfully, the opposition to these forces isn’t only elected Democrats, it’s also social movements that have been in the streets and — I don’t think they, you know, I think they’re here to fight. We are here to fight.

MH: That’s such an important point, because I seem to remember — we have such short memories now, we can’t keep track because the news changes every day — when Kavanaugh was nominated, or when Kennedy said he was standing down, we were told this was a shoo-in for the Republicans, that there’s nothing the Democrats can do, this guy’s going to breeze through, you might as well pick a fight somewhere else and use your energy elsewhere Ryan.

RG: Right, and Democratic leaders in the Senate were telling activists to stand down, stop making us look bad, we’re powerless to stop this, why are you hurting us in the midterms. And they did not stand down to Naomi’s point. The movement continued. There were many more arrests just this week, and there will be more arrests coming.

MH: The powerlessness, Ryan, is self-inflicted. That’s what’s so painful. OK, you don’t have a majority. Fine. That’s an election issue, which we get into the reasons why you lose elections all the time. But just even when you — so, for example, you’re on the verge of power now, Dick Durbin one of the most supposedly progressive senators on the Judiciary Committee, is saying on Sunday that, you know what, we were mistaken in 2013 to get rid of the filibuster for lower-level judge appointments, and we will bring back the filibuster as a show of good faith when we’re in control, which is madness!

Because the Republicans don’t give a shit whether the Democrats follow the rules. They are going to do whatever they want regardless.

RG: And not just that — Democrats have been saying publicly that they are actually afraid of winning this fight. Their biggest fear was that Kavanaugh would be voted down, Democrats would win — that’s called a win — and it would anger the Tea Party Republican base who would then come out in the midterms and vote against their people like Heitkamp and Tester and Donnelly.

MH: So this is unilateral disarmament.

RG: So they were literally afraid of winning.

MH: The Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have today written to Trump saying: You need to withdraw Kavanaugh. And some of them have done a lot of good work: Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Richard Blumenthal made a lot of noise.

RG: Imagine that, though. Imagine where we are, and what it took, for them to say, “This man should be withdrawn.”

MH: That’s true. The third woman, Judy Swetnick, I think her name is.

RG: Right, like you said, they had this information in July, and it took not just the slut-shaming of Renate Schroeder, not just Christine Blasey Ford, not just Ramirez, it took the gang rape allegation.

MH: Now, that we’ve learned of today.

RG: That we’ve learned of today.

MH: For people finally to say — there were I believe four: Merkley, Gillibrand, Markey, and Hirono had already before today called for him to be withdrawn, but now the full party is coming forward and finally saying: “It’s time to withdraw.” And if they win this now, just to take Ryan’s idea of being afraid of winning, Naomi, if they do win this in some shape or form, does that then embolden the social movements that you talked about? Does that then put a spine in some of the spineless backs of some of the Democrat leadership?

NK: Well I, I think it will have an impact and I think it will embolden social movements and I think it will encourage more activists to run for office, because we’re seeing, you know, we’re seeing many more examples of that. And Ryan’s been covering this so closely.

You know, there isn’t as neat a split as there used to be between grassroots social movements in the streets and the people willing to stand for office and primary powerful Democrats.

MH: Ryan, my own view, and I plan to write about this soon, and it’s an unpopular view among some liberals, is that the Democrats not only need to fight much more — if the word is dirty, I don’t if you want to use, but with much less concern for norms at a time when the other side doesn’t give a shit about norms.

But, for example, on the Supreme Court: if the Democrats win the Senate and the House, if they win the presidency, should they change the Supreme Court radically, should they add more justices, take it to 11 in order to balance it out. People say: You can’t pack the courts because that sets a bad precedent — the Republicans will do it, too! The Republicans are already doing it! They stole a Supreme Court seat!

RG: Right, and to your point. I do have some news on that as related to what Naomi was saying, I interviewed Ady Barkan an activist who led a lot of these protests and also who raised a $1.5 million to pressure Collins to vote “No.” He told me his next step in this is to pressure Schumer and raise money in the same way, that if Schumer doesn’t stand up to the next Supreme Court nominee in a way that’s considered sufficient, then they’re going to run a primary against Schumer.

To your question about the Supreme Court, one way of thinking about it would be this: Democrats don’t have the votes to impeach Clarence Thomas who perjured himself through his confirmation process, setting aside the rest of everything else.

So what they could say is, “OK, we’re going to add two justices to the court. We can do that with a, with a simple majority. You don’t need a two-thirds majority. You need two-thirds to impeach.”

MH: It’s not magic number, 9 —

RG: And you can say, “Hey, look, if Clarence Thomas will not resign, we’re going to add two justices to the court to balance out the one who’s illegitimately there.” And then if he resigns and they can withdraw the bill.

So they have — there are power moves that they could play and maybe they’re — and maybe they’ll find out that winning isn’t so bad.

MH: Let me ask you this before we have to wrap up. I mean, when you look at U.S. democracy right now. You’ve just moved here, I moved a few years ago, we’ve both been writing about the United States for many, many years and democracy in the U.S.: When you look at the Supreme Court, which is a weird institution in the whole U.S. constitutional set-up, with the lifetime appointments, et cetera, and the power it has of striking down laws, you look at a Supreme Court now where if Kavanaugh is confirmed or a Kavanaugh replacement is confirmed, you will have four Supreme Court justices out of nine who were appointed by a President who lost the popular vote.

NK: Yeah.

MH: If Kavanaugh’s appointed, you’ll have two of the nine justices who are accused of sexual assault. I mean, when we talk about crisis of democracy and legitimacy of institutions and the rise of populism, surely the Supreme Court and the way it’s being politicized has to be somewhere near the top of that list.

NK: Absolutely, and it’s all interconnected, as you say. It’s connected with the fact that this isn’t an actual democracy by most countries’ definition. And so you — and one thing that does give me hope is that more than at any point that I’ve been watching U.S. politics, there is an interest and a fervor, really, for exposing the rigged nature of the system, right? From the Electoral College to the super delegates to gerrymandering to what is happening on the Supreme Court right now, and many more examples, right? Including, you know, the financial dark money and so on.

So I think the more we have a progressive movement that is focused on the systems, broken systems and how to fix them, as opposed to just you know individuals who we happen to, you know, loathe everything about them, the more, you know the stronger position I think we’re in.

MH: I completely agree with you, and I’m personally hoping that the silver lining of this, you know, we’ve been waiting for that—what was that Newtonian law?

Every action has an equal opposite reaction; that hasn’t been the case in U.S. politics. The Republicans have been able to do some crazy shit without any kind of equal opposite reaction from the Democrats, from the Left, from social movements. I do hope this Kavanaugh

shit show provokes — emboldens — activists on the Left to do that. Ryan, last word, do you think I’m being overly optimistic?

RG: No. And I also think that if he goes down, the way he’s going down kind of obviates a lot of Schumer’s irrational fears anyway. Like, at this point how do you hold it against Heidi Heitkamp for voting —so now you have a huge unified Democratic base from the center to the left, you know, ready to take this into November.

MH: Well, we could be on the cusp of a rich, right-wing white man being held to account: a rarity in the U.S. in 2018.

Ryan, Naomi, thanks so much for joining me to chat about this. Who knows how many other women have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault while we’ve been having this conversation.

NK: Great talking with you guys.

MH: Thank you both.

[Musical interlude.]

MH: That’s our show. And if you want to come to a live recording of this show and be in the audience, October 10 is the day to lock in your calendars.

If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, I’ll be hosting a panel event on the future of the Left and the Democrats in Congress, a midterm special, if you will, with Congressman Ro Khanna, Senator Jeff Merkley, Nina Turner, the President of Our Revolution, and Simone Sanders, former Bernie Sanders press secretary and now-CNN political commentator. If you want to get tickets, go to The Intercept’s Facebook page, check on the events section and you can buy tickets there.

Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept, and is distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Zach Young. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Dina Sayedahmed is our production assistant. Leital Molad is our executive producer. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the show so you can hear it every Thursday. Go to theintercept.com/deconstructed to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review — it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at podcasts@theintercept.com. Thanks so much!

See you next week.

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