Here's just a few of the more salient things that America still doesn't know about President Trump's Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh as the 53-year-old D.C. jurist's Senate confirmation hearings began Tuesday morning:
What he did or didn't do in the Bush White House to facilitate unlawful torture practices, whether he would rule to overturn woman's reproductive rights, or how he so quickly paid off his large and supposedly baseball-induced credit-card debt.
Here's one thing we do know with absolute certainty: Kavanaugh was already — even before he delivered his opening statement — one of the most unpopular Supreme Court nominees in modern U.S. history. He's on a par with the right-wing extremist Robert Bork whose 1987 selection by Ronald Reagan was torpedoed not just by Democrats but by the now-extinct breed of moderate Republicans such as the late Pennsylvanian, Arlen Specter.
And yet, with almost equal certainty, we can expect that Kavanaugh — after a rushed hearing in which many key documents will remain hidden from senators and the American public — will be confirmed in time for the fall start of the High Court's next session to begin rewriting our law for the next three decades or more. And he'll do so with support from senators representing less than half of the population, very much comparable to Trump's less-than-plurality 2016 popular vote.
A deeply flawed, wildly unpopular judge getting confirmed in a kangaroo court of a confirmation hearing by a thin majority of mostly small-state senators, just two years after the Senate blackballed the legitimate nominee of a Democratic president? Is this any way to run a democracy?
Don't answer that.
Right before the gavel came down Tuesday at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a new ABC News/Washington Post survey revealed that only 38 percent of Americans want to see Kavanaugh — currently a federal appeals court judge in the nation's capital — confirmed, on a par with past failed nominations like Bork and George W. Bush's short-lived and widely panned 2005 pick of his White House counsel Harriet Miers. Kavanaugh is especially unpopular with women; another recent poll had his approval with female voters at a mere 28 percent.
Why is Kavanaugh so unpopular, and why does the Senate appeared poised to confirm him anyway?
There's no one, easy answer to the first question. Polls such as the new ABC/Post survey show that support for a women's right to choose on abortion remains strong, particularly among young voters, and there is a legitimate fear that Kavanaugh would vote to roll back reproductive rights and maybe even overturn to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Also, despite his backers' efforts to play him up as a family man and a girls' basketball coach, Kavanaugh's slightly smarmy frat-boy bearing — as the nominee of a president who's overwhelmingly picked white dudes for the federal bench — isn't helpful. Neither is his association with Trump — strongly disapproved by 53 percent of Americans, a low that even Richard Nixon never attained — and the idea that Kavanaugh could soon be voting to help that unpopular president shut down the criminal probe into his administration's misdeeds.
Of course, that last point — his usefulness for saving the embattled Trump presidency — may help explain the rush to confirm a justice that so few normal citizens actually want. But more broadly, Kavanaugh's likely confirmation will be the critical moment in a long-running right-wing coup in this country, a successful jihad against democracy and popular rule to install a billionaire oligarchy by flying a false flag of "liberty," aided by an untouchable cadre of right-wing jurists-for-life.
Currently, I'm reading (actually listening to) a remarkable book called "Democracy in Chains" by Nancy MacLean that outlines a 60-year-long plot by right-wing libertarians — hatched by a relatively little-known Virginia economist but aided by billionaire backers like the Koch Brothers — to create a government structured not to carry out the will of the people but to thwart it. Not surprisingly, control of the judiciary is one of the main elements of the plot.
It's why wealthy conservatives often invest a fortune in obscure state judicial elections, for example. But the big kahuna is obviously the U.S. Supreme Court and its power to decide issues of commerce and taxation that matter the most to the oligarchic powers-that-be. When Justice Antonin Scalia abruptly died in early 2016, an exercise of true democracy — granting even a public hearing to the man that our democratically elected president, Barack Obama, nominated, the eminently decent centrist Merrick Garland — was blocked by that oligarchy's protectorate, the Senate GOP majority led by Mitch McConnell. That's because staying within the guardrails of democratic norms would have killed the right's decades-long takeover of all the levers of government. Instead, it was left to a president elected with nearly 3 million fewer popular votes than his opponent to finish the job.
Not only have Trump and McConnell installed the doctrinaire conservative Neil Gorsuch, but their current coup maneuvering — replacing occasional swing vote Anthony Kennedy with his more reliably right-wing former law clerk Kavanaugh — will largely complete the mission. In a moment when Americans are showing renewed support for labor unions, pro-choice policies, expanded civil rights protections for a wide range of oppressed groups and stronger voting rights, the Roberts-Kavanaugh Court will instead celebrate the glories of corporate personhood and find creative ways to tamp down voter participation. Five men will thwart the majority desires of 320 million Americans for a generation, or more.
To achieve such an anti-democratic outcome requires an anti-democratic process. Kavanaugh's long record of serving a variety of conservative-led crusades — including Kenneth Starr's Lewinsky-era investigation of Bill Clinton and the critical years of Bush 43's White House — created a massive paper trail that could inform the media and the public as to what this wanna-be lifetime Supreme is really all about. And, not surprisingly, GOP leaders have gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Kavanugh's public record from being an issue in his confirmation.
Republican leaders in the Senate raced to begin this hearing on the day their colleagues returned from their summer recess, with little or no time to review critical papers. Some 42,000 pages of those documents from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House were released in the dead of night just a few hours before Tuesday's hearing began, giving senators little or no time to read them ahead of their questioning.
Reams and reams of other documents have either been completely withheld because of the White House's claim of executive privilege — no such claim was made regarding similar documents when Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the High Court — or are not accessible to the public. Calling the Kavanaugh confirmation process a travesty of mockery of a travesty of a sham would be far too kind to the travesties and shams of yesteryear.
Despite that, there's little doubt that the 51 GOP senators representing less than half of the Kavanaugh-disliking public will be able to ram this thing though, probably with help from one or two weak-kneed Democrats up for re-election in the so-called red states. And that the new justice will arrive at the Supreme Court just in time to decide the fate of the president who nominated him — the same president who was just named in open court as a co-conspirator in a felony plot to help him get elected in the first place. Is this a great country or what?
Don't answer that.