Photo courtesy of Win McNamee / Getty Images
Few current issues weigh as heavily on the minds of Americans as last week’s Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and sexual assault allegations from Christine Blasey Ford that have rattled Washington D.C. These allegations have reignited a national debate on issues surrounding sexual violence, political agendas and the very integrity of the U.S. justice system.
Locally, MTSU students spectate, discuss and debate the controversy. They can be overheard on campus and in classrooms talking to colleagues about the character of the two individuals in question: “Which one is telling the truth?”
Members of MTSU’s College Republicans and College Democrats have been heavily involved in the discussion and debate of this very question.
“We see sexual assault swept under the rug often,” said Hannah Clarneau, the president of the College Democrats. “We’ve seen it a lot with this particular presidency.”
“I think that it’s apparent to anyone who watches Dr. Ford’s testimony and sees the level of pain and strain that she’s going through when she’s reading it (that) something happened to her,” said Steven Barhorst, the secretary of the College Republicans.
Ford says that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party they had attended in the early-to-mid 1980s. Other currently unnamed women have also claimed that they were sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh denies that he ever sexually assaulted Ford or anyone else. Without an FBI investigation, it’s one person’s word against another’s.
On Friday, however, President Donald Trump called for an FBI investigation into the allegations after pressure from Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a potential swing voter in the nomination process.
On Wednesday night Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture, which will move the Senate closer to a confirmation vote. A final vote may come as early as Saturday.
Barhorst supports Kavanaugh and believes that his record and experience qualifies him for nomination to the Supreme Court. He explained, however, that he believed Senate Republicans had asked the wrong questions during the Ford hearings.
“The questions should have always been, ‘Do you have corroborating evidence that supports the claim that Brett Kavanaugh was the one that did these horrible things?’” Barhorst said. “Instead, they went down the trail of asking her if she lied about it. Politically and morally – more importantly – you’re always going to lose that argument.”
Barhorst said he believed that something did happen to Ford, but he didn’t have enough evidence to believe it could have been Kavanaugh who did it.
As a self-described Republican with libertarian-conservative views, Barhorst believes that the polarizing politics of the Kavanaugh hearings have put him into a broad group of people with opinions on the matter that he wouldn’t totally agree with.
“I think that this (situation) is really sort of exacerbating the problem of political polarization,” Barhorst said. “Now, if you’re a Republican or you support Brett Kavanaugh … there’s been a loss of nuance. So my position that something has happened to Dr. Ford … (but) maybe it’s just not Brett Kavanaugh has been thrown out the window. If I support Brett Kavanaugh, that means I’m supporting the silencing of rape survivors and sexual assault survivors, and nothing could be further from the case.”
Barhorst further explained that, in contrast, “if you’re a Democrat or someone who thinks that Brett Kavanaugh shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court, either because they believe the allegations or (have) some other perspective, that means that you are in favor of destroying people’s lives based on allegations and hearsay.”
“Both of these cases can’t be further from the truth,” Barhorst said.
For Clarneau, Kavanaugh’s nomination has “represented America poorly.”
Clarneau explained that although the accusations against Kavanaugh were not yet proven, they are still important when determining if he is suitable for the job.
She dismissed the speculation that Ford could be working to undermine the nomination hearings so that Democrats can buy time for a possible party switch in Washington after midterm elections.
“(Ford) gave a very detailed account of what happened, and she gave a very detailed account of what happened (when speaking) to her therapist years prior to his nomination ever happening,” Clarneau said. “I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Oh, she’s a pawn of the Democratic Party,’ and that’s simply not true. Her husband has known about this, (and) her therapist has known about this for years. So I think that’s definitely something that people who are skeptical should take into consideration.”
Clarneau supports an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh.
“If it is true that he sexually assaulted these women, then he needs to be made an example of,” Clarneau said. “And if it’s not true, then the women who came forward falsely need to be made an example of as well. False accusations are very serious, and they should be punishable.”
Clarneau explained that sexual assault needs to be taken more seriously by the populace.
“It’s not a scandal anymore,” Clarneau said. “(Sexual assault) is a crime, it’s serious (and it’s) something that should be punished.”
According to a WMOT report, Nashville’s Sexual Assault Center has seen a 500 percent increase in call volume since last week’s Senate hearings on Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations.
More information on Nashville’s Sexual Assault Center can be accessed here.
To contact news Editor Caleb Revill, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more news, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.