The fate of the nation is hanging in the balance over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
So, it may seem insignificant that Christine Blasey Ford has been mocked by the president and has gone into hiding because she and her sons have received multiple death threats.
And it may seem simply a matter of indecency that senate Republicans have released a report on the sex life of his third accuser.
This kind of intimidation has become a hallmark of the Trump administration, after all.
He has threatened to selectively target critical publications, to bury critical reporters in libel lawsuits, to destroy the careers of critical party members, and to break the will of critical world leaders. In the process, he has successfully silenced his party, the conservative press, and a striking number of world leaders.
But the efforts to intimidate Kavanaugh’s accusers go straight to the heart of the question of whether or not we will continue to live in a free society.
For if critics of this administration and its nominees are to be met with intimidation, there is a danger that when the headlines fade, the resistance will gradually die away, as the disincentives to speak out grow too great to bear.
And as the lives and careers of prominent critics are destroyed and social media critics are shut down by trolls, there is a danger the last critics standing will simply succumb to exhaustion.
It is the typical fate of civil society under autocratic rule: authoritarian governments gradually bring about authoritarian societies.
The threat of a return to patriarchy is all too real. And while the greatest threat may be felt by women today, they are the canary in the coal mine telling us we are all in danger.
The freedom of women is at stake, because the Republican Party is increasingly the party of white men, struggling through force to retain their unearned privileges. And in order to get out the vote, party leaders need to stoke their rage, which will find its way into law, while rippling through every family and marriage—silencing women in their most intimate relationships.
The freedom of men is at stake as well, though.
For women have long led the way in transcending gender constraints, challenging their roles as homemakers and emotional caretakers. And in doing so, they opened the door for men to question the emotional restrictions and burden of responsibilities implied by their own limiting gender roles.
If women’s freedom is taken away, men’s freedom will be next.
But the freedom of the nation is at stake as well, for when powerful men are able to silence their critics, every citizen is a little less free to speak their minds. And when we cease to speak out, it becomes a little easier for the powerful to use us for their own ends.
While powerful men may use women sexually, powerful corporations will manipulate markets and consumers, and powerful leaders will manipulate the electorate.
George Orwell once noted that a fascist can be simply described as a bully. And while Trump has frequently been described as a populist, the difference is that, whereas populism mobilizes frustrations against elites, fascism mobilizes the powerful to bully the weak.
And it is precisely this bullying that has become a hallmark of the Trump administration.
Somehow, the administration saw fit, amid the most controversial Supreme Court nomination process in at least a century, to send 200 million Americans a message from the president on their cell phones, testing an emergency warning system that might later be used by the most dishonest president in history to bypass the press and take his message straight to the phones of every man, woman, and child.
The Kavanaugh hearing is a distraction from the message system. But the message system is a distraction from the Kavanaugh hearing. And together they are a distraction from Republicans having stolen the court when they refused to grant a hearing to Obama’s centrist nominee, Merrick Garland.
And the fusillade of offenses is about throwing us all off balance.
In taking the gloves off and fighting dirty, they are trying to wear down their opponents and one by one take us out of the game.
But fascism is also about power for the sake of power, whether it be power over the woman who is being raped or the country that is be ransacked.
It is often said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but it is far more frequently steamrolled with unrelenting evil. It pummels its victims, paralyzes them with trauma, and leaves them stammering in confusion and despair.
And while there are many Republicans who will confirm Kavanaugh in spite of his evil, there are many who will do so because of it.
Make no mistake, Republicans are trying to silence the nation, and in this likely rapist, they have found themselves another leading light.
If you liked this article, please check out my book, The Holocausts We All Deny.