If you’re already inclined to believe that America increasingly victimizes men simply for acting like men, the accusations against Kavanaugh confirm your fears. First, because if these charges can sink Kavanaugh, they can sink lots of other men too. “Is there any man in this room that wouldn’t be subjected to such an allegation?” askedIowa Republican Representative Steve King earlier this week. The #MeToo movement has established just how pervasive sexual harassment and assault are, and conservatives suspect that Democrats and the media will weaponize such allegations to destroy as many prominent Republicans as possible. Which means that if the GOP can’t hold the line on Kavanaugh, it faces an endless series of Kavanaugh-style scandals. As the conservative pundit Erick Erickson tweetedon Wednesday, “If they cannot confirm Kavanaugh, they cannot confirm anyone. This is the beginning of a new age of judicial character assassination and it only gets worse from here.”
Even more alarming for many conservatives is that, until recently, Kavanaugh’s alleged offenses would have carried few consequences. Liberals have moved the goalposts. It’s a bit like the complaint that conservatives are now called bigots for opposing gay marriage—for retaining a view that was mainstream and bipartisan not long ago. Conservatives are acutely aware that liberals wield more influence than they do over America’s shifting norms of cultural acceptability. Which means, again, that Kavanaugh might be just the beginning. Who knows—conservatives worry—what previously tolerated behavior liberals might try to destroy Republicans for practicing next?