These diametrically opposed worldviews collided most notably when Kavanaugh testified on his own behalf. Reading much of the progressive commentary in response to his rage and pain, I was struck by the assumption that Kavanaugh’s emotion was inextricably linked to his privilege, connected to his sense of entitlement to a Supreme Court seat that he couldn’t believe was about to be snatched from his grasp.
Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times that “nothing makes a man accustomed to privilege angrier than the prospect of losing some of that privilege, especially if it comes with the suggestion that people like him are subject to the same rules as the rest of us.” This was the explanation for his rage. Another white man was grasping for power. In Politico, former Yale Law Dean Robert Post declared that “Kavanaugh apparently cared more about his promotion than about preserving the dignity of the Supreme Court he aspired to join.”
Yet that is emphatically not what millions of other Americans witnessed on their televisions. In fact, these Americans are mystified and angered by these takes. I’m still surprised, even days later, by the sheer number of mainly (but not exclusively) conservative men and women who describe watching Kavanaugh’s testimony with deep emotion. They didn’t see a man grasping for power. They saw a man fighting to preserve something far more precious than a Supreme Court seat. They saw a man fighting for his family, for his very honor in the one moment when his defense could be most effective, in the one moment when the eyes of the nation were fixed upon him. I know that’s what I saw.