A message to Manchin

Martha Ehlman

Senator Manchin, do the job West Virginians elected you to do. Make a principled decision because it’s the right thing to do. 

Show us you understand that the lives of women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose story has resonated deeply and personally with me as it has with millions of other women, aren’t merely small bumps on the road to power for men whose ambition trumps the possibility of remorse. 

I’ve opposed Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment since his nomination because he has consistently applied the law in ways contrary to my values. As a member of the Fair Trade Federation and Green America, I built my small business in Harpers Ferry, a fully dedicated fair trade retail store, to use the power of the market to support economic development for women, to ensure the environment is cared for responsibly and to make sure that honest work receives the dignity we all deserve. Based on his record, I think Judge Kavanaugh will move us backward on the environment, dignity in work and certainly on women’s rights. 

But after the Sept. 27 testimony from Dr. Ford and then Judge Kavanaugh, principled arguments on both sides must be put aside. The facts at hand –the credible allegations against Judge Kavanaugh made by Dr. Ford, his untruthfulness during sworn testimony, his belligerent temperament and his blatant partisanship – disqualify Judge Kavanaugh from the privilege of serving our nation on the Supreme Court. 

Judge Kavanaugh has credible, sworn testimony accusing him of a crime that has had lifelong consequences for the victim, Dr. Ford. Senators may hide their heads in the sand and make cynical arguments about where obligation lies to demonstrate irrefutable proof of the accusations made, but only the willfully ignorant could cast doubt on Dr. Ford’s credibility. 

I believe Dr. Ford. 

In part, I believe Dr. Ford because her story aligns far too much with my own experience as a survivor of sexual assault as a young woman. I know the difficulty of sharing my experience. For fear of shame, for fear of not being believed, for fear of the futility of opening old wounds that would cause me great pain but have little consequence for the person responsible. 

In a world that values women, Dr. Ford’s credible accusation alone would be cause enough to withdraw Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. But since we are still building that world, and since other arguments may be more persuasive to politicians whose pursuit of their own agenda blinds them to the experiences of women like Dr. Ford and me, it’s important to consider other ways Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony has disqualified him. 

It’s become increasingly evident that Judge Kavanaugh has lied under oath about the nature of his drinking. We cannot elevate an arbiter of the law to our nation’s most consequential legal institution when that person has broken the law expressly to help his chances of appointment. In business and in law, our foundations erode quickly without a commitment to truth and honesty. I cannot accept a Supreme Court justice that is not held to the same professional standard I hold myself to.  

Further, during his testimony Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a temperament unacceptable for a member of the Supreme Court. His anger flared out of control. He consistently evaded legitimate, direct questions, instead offering meandering responses to run out the time on his questioning and thwart a fundamental component of the nomination process. To sit on the Supreme Court a judge must be truly exceptional. Judge Kavanaugh has shown his self-control to be below what is required for the job.

Even more distressingly, Judge Kavanaugh displayed a partisanship and political hostility to his perceived enemies – Democrats, the Clintons and the “left-wing” as a whole — that surely pleased Senate Republicans, but would cause irreversible damage to the perception of the Supreme Court as a nonpartisan body should he be appointed. 

Safeguarding our political institutions from sabotage shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but Kavanaugh’s supporters appear willing to risk the legitimacy of the last major political institution with broad public support to gain ideological ground on their opponents. 

Were the Senate and our nation able to put partisanship aside, any one of these circumstances would be cause to step back and find a candidate worthy of the position. Unfortunately, this nomination process has inflamed partisan passions. 

For political reasons, this may make the decision before Senator Manchin a more difficult one. As to moral reasons, there is no room for debate. 

Judge Kavanaugh is not the most qualified candidate for this position. The continued consideration of his nomination is an affront to Dr. Ford, to me, and to millions of women across the country. His name should be withdrawn. Failing that, our Senators, Joe Manchin included, should vote against his confirmation and another, more qualified candidate should be put forward.

– Martha Ehlman is the owner of Tenfold Fair Trade Collection in Harpers Ferry and a member of Main Street Alliance, a nationwide network of small businesses

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