It was, however, in the epic clash over the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford that the collapse of conservatism in the Republican Party became most evident. Eleven men, most of them old, hid behind a female prosecutor wheeled in from Arizona because they could not, apparently, trust themselves to treat a victim of sexual assault with consideration and respect. So much for courage. Their anger at Democratic shenanigans was understandable, but virtually without exception, when they did summon up the nerve to speak (during Kavanaugh’s turn) their questions consisted almost exclusively of partisan baying at the opposition. Genuine conservatives might have snarled initially, but would, out of regard for the truth, tried to figure out exactly what happened to Ford 35 years ago, and whether the character of the man before them was what it was said to be.

Perhaps the collapse of modern conservatism came out most clearly in Kavanaugh’s own testimony—its self-pity, its hysteria, its conjuring up of conspiracies, its vindictiveness. He and his family had no doubt suffered agonies. But if we expect steely resolve from a police officer confronting a knife-wielding assailant, or disciplined courage from a firefighter rushing into a burning house, we should expect stoic self-control and calm from a conservative judge, even if his heart is being eaten out. No one watching those proceedings could imagine that a Democrat standing before this judge’s bench in the future would get a fair hearing. This was not the conservative temperament on display. It was, rather, personalized grievance politics.