His tears make a kind of sense. From a single phrase by Thomas Jefferson—that public life is about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”—the fulfillment of the white American man’s atomized desires assumed the force of a fiat, and became the ultimate purpose of this country’s society. If a white man didn’t get what he wanted, it was nothing short of a constitutional crisis, in his body and his body politic both. Written into America’s founding document is the franchise for a man like Kavanaugh to weep when he isn’t fulfilled. In this, he’s less a citizen of his society than one of its disgruntled customers, who are always right. There’s an originalist argument to be made for being a crybaby.
It isn’t retrograde to think it may be beneath a man to cry under such circumstances. Trump himself was reportedly disturbed by Kavanaugh’s crying, and once told the writer Timothy L. O’Brien, “When I see a man cry I view it as a weakness.” Clarence Thomas, a man of a different generation but who underwent a similar public reckoning, had the old-fashioned disposition to fight Anita Hill’s entirely credible accusations with righteous indignation, to cannily counterattack by saying that his being held to account was nothing more than “a high-tech lynching.” Kavanaugh has no avenue of appeal, though, except his own hurt feelings. He is in touch with them, as he was taught to be. And, so, he’s seemingly weaponized crying, the way a little boy does when he’s in trouble.