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I believe the men

I just finished watching "The Office" episode entitled "Sexual Harassment." It's painfully funny to watch clueless white males guffaw their way through the office, unaware of how awkward they make everyone feel and how evident their own inadequacies are.

Watching the current episode of "Brett Kavanaugh" is painful without the humor. Here we have a clueless nominee, Senators, and president playing a similar game and covering up similar deficiencies--only here the stakes are higher. Kavanaugh's Republican supporters see themselves on the cusp of the Supreme Court majority they've been craving and dreaming about for so many years.

While politics are motivating the Republicans right now--hardball politics which they always play, and which has led them to the cusp of a Supreme Court majority--this only tells a part of the story.

You see, there is more to this than raw political calculation. The Kavanaugh situation goes to the heart of status and influence in a society that has always served the interests of a privileged white male caste. The Senators and the current president are, for the most part, members of this caste. So are a number of federal and state politicians, federal and state judges, and men in private companies, law firms, and investment banks. This class has gone through select channels to get to their privileged positions. Men such as this have exercised privilege and power over others in countless ways, even when not through outright sexual harassment. They have never even questioned these privileges. They almost HAVE to believe Kavanaugh, because it amounts to believing themselves and all that has gotten them to their current positions.

And in this sense, I have to say I believe Brett Kavanaugh. I believe he thinks that what he did in his youth (and who knows what else as he got older) is his right and that there is nothing wrong with it. This is part of his upbringing, from the wink-wink culture at Georgetown Prep, to the gross male hijinks that were accepted at Yale, and through to his judicial clerkship and service to the Bush administration. All this went into creating an American gentleman.

Similarly, I believe Mitch McConnell. “We’re going to be moving forward. I’m confident we’re going to win, confident that he’ll be confirmed in the very near future,” he told reporters on Tuesday. Yes, I believe his confidence and his conviction that what Kavanaugh allegedly did is the right of any red-blooded privileged American white male. I believe that to him it is indeed about winning and losing, rather than right and wrong.

And so I believe the current president, who said, “This is a person, and this is a series of statements, that’s going to take one of the most talented and one of the greatest intellects from a judicial standpoint in our country, going to keep him off the United States Supreme Court?” Setting aside this man’s limited qualifications to judge intellect, I certainly believe that he literally cannot understand this scenario. How can this nominee be challenged for what to the current president must appear to be routine and expected sexual exploits?

The privileged male caste will continue to fight to maintain its place by attacking the accusers, by going through the motions to investigate these issues, and by having a “female assistant” (McConnell’s words again--he’s really quite a poet) question Christine Blasey Ford. Then, if the caste has its way, a vote will take place posthaste, Kavanaugh will become the newest Justice, and the privilege will be retained.

All this might happen. Even as the “me too” movement fights back and women are asserting their voices, history tells us that the privileged caste will fight hard to keep its influence, as it has for centuries. It has every advantage of systems and structures that have long been in place, through institutions, formal and informal networks, and culture. This caste will resist change at every turn. Right now, it’s up to a small group of women on the outer edges of that caste who need to stand up and challenge the status quo. I’m talking about you, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

Notice how much better the world is when the privileged white male stranglehold on power is diminished. Think about this: Of the 43 white men who’ve become president, only about six or seven have been truly great at their jobs, a pretty poor ratio. But all four female Supreme Court Justices have been great--the women are 4 for 4! Black Supreme Court Justices are 1 for 2. And Black presidents--well, it’s too early to judge historically, but I’ll argue that its one 1 for 1. Small sample sizes to be sure, but maybe someone from outside the white male privileged box has a broader and more nuanced view of the world. In any case, I’m willing to take my chances on more females, people of color, and gays leading our government.

The Kavanaugh situation will shed a good deal of light on where we are going as a country. Will our society continue to exalt and protect the privilege of a traditional, narrow male class? Or will new, more expanded pathways emerge?

The privileged white male class has a long and daunting winning record. It’s time for them to lose a battle or two.

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