On Sunday, The New York Times published an excerpt of a new book on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. The snippet focused on the story of Deborah Ramirez—a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale, who alleged he had exposed himself to her at a college party. While Kavanaugh angrily waved off reports of such behavior during his confirmation hearing, Pogrebin and Kelly wrote that they found both Ramirez’s claim, and Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of a drunken attempted assault by a high-school-aged Kavanaugh, to be credible.
That was all it took. The president punched out tweet after tweet demanding retribution for the “lies” told about the justice. By the end of Monday, several Democratic presidential candidates had called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.
So here we are, a year later. The wounds are not going to heal.
The staying power of the Kavanaugh story—or perhaps the Christine Blasey Ford story, or the Deborah Ramirez story—is how normal it is. This might be a strange thing to say about a controversy involving a president, a Supreme Court justice, and some of the most selective schools in the United States. But the broad outlines of the story are so familiar as to be almost archetypal, and for that reason it has the same power that fables do: We can find in it the shadow of our own pain. As Vox’s Jane Coaston notes, many conservatives writing in the fall of 2018 seemed to see themselves or those they knew in Kavanaugh: a rambunctious boy who grows up into, as the conservative commentator Rod Dreher wrote, an “ordinary, bland Republican man,” unjustly persecuted. And many found the allegations themselves similarly familiar. In a second excerpt from their book, published in The Atlantic, Pogrebin and Kelly quote a sex-crimes prosecutor calling Ford’s account a description of “a very bread-and-butter acquaintance sexual assault.”