The images of women being arrested at Senators’ offices have now joined the indelible imagery of Trump’s America and will be recorded in the history of a nation increasingly torn apart along the dividing lines of identity (gender, ideology, race and class). This is precisely the intent of nationalist populism, in the US and everywhere else. But the Kavanaugh affair serves as proof, in particular, of the war the Trump regime has declared on American women.
Given the active role of American courts in politics, consolidating a majority on the Supreme Court is a crucial part of the reactionary counter-revolution, which aims to attack civil rights and support the capitalism of big finance, to restrict minorities’ access to the polls and let loose the forces of environmental destruction, and, most importantly, to ensure legal immunity for Trump himself when this will become necessary.
It is particularly symbolic that the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination has been waged mainly by women, motivated by the real danger of losing their rights to abortion and equal opportunities—and motivated even more by the symbolic weight of the appointment of Kavanaugh, a man accused of sexual violence, to a powerful position for life by a president who is himself known, by his own words, to be a misogynist and sexual predator.
However, in the face of the angry protests against Kavanaugh, the president doubled down, going on the offensive in a series of rallies where he belittled, mocked and vilified Kavanaugh’s accusers and female victims of abuse in general.
In the time of #MeToo and the rising awareness of the endemic culture of abuse, violence and femicide, Trump chose to denounce the protesters as “very rude elevator screamers” paid by Soros—the ever-convenient nemesis of far-right conspiracy theorists. In a number of rallies, Trump described white men as victims of a feminist conspiracy. Weaponizing the hate against so-called “feminazis” that has been festering for years among the alt-right (especially on openly sexist websites in the online “manosphere”), Trump made up a fable about a good boy who studied hard and found a good job, only to have to confess to his distraught mother that he had been fired because of false accusations from a woman he didn’t even know. In this piece of mythologized white paranoia, the Kavanaugh scandal was made into a symbol of the persecution of white men, presented as innocent targets under siege by attacks from women, minorities and socialists.
After all, this exact formula was what worked for Trump two years ago, and ever since his inauguration, he has made sure to keep stoking the fear and hate of his loyal base—now the winning formula for a Republican Party that represents only a minority, but is willing to compensate for that by force and abuse: both in the president’s rhetoric and in the procedural warfare waged by Mitch McConnell and his minions in the Senate. Whether the reactionary decline of the country is a result of a long series of small steps, or rather of a coup in slow motion, is something that can be debated.
There is no doubt, however, about the fact that, after the Republican obstruction of the Supreme Court appointment which Obama had been entitled to, the presence of a partisan like Kavanaugh on the highest court has now cemented an arch-conservative Supreme Court majority able to impose their rulings on society for a generation. It is particularly striking that the last two presidents elected despite losing the popular vote—Trump and George W. Bush—have together chosen four of the nine judges that currently sit on the Supreme Court.
Without having won an actual democratic mandate at the polls, the right now has a formidable tool in hand to effectively implement a program of dismantling democracy as such, imposing rulings that fly in the face of strong popular opinion on topics such as abortion and equal opportunities for women. This is yet more proof of how the issue of preserving patriarchy has become the fundamental element in the current political conflicts and in the global authoritarian upsurge—whether in Washington, Verona or Brazil.
In the US, the battle lines could not be drawn more clearly. One month before the midterm elections, polls show that men favor the Republicans by a 10-point margin, while women support the Democratic Party by no less than 20 percent.
After this defeat, the November midterm elections are more and more taking on the character of a crucial referendum on Trumpism. Women voters will likely have a more decisive role than ever, and the political fight around Kavanaugh may have been, for many of them, a historical moment in terms of motivating them to vote.
Over the past few days, one of the slogans of the protesters on Capitol Hill has been, “In November, we’ll remember!”