Friday may well mark the single most important day in the political career of North Carolina’s junior senator Thom Tillis. That’s the day that U.S. Senate Republicans have indicated they intend to have the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Supreme Court. The announcement of the planned vote comes, remarkably, despite the fact that the committee is also scheduled to hear that very same day from one of two women who have come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of what amount to sexual assaults when he was a young man.
By every indication, it appears that Senate Republicans will, without even seriously considering the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, dismiss her claims, ignore widespread calls for a full investigation and move rapidly forward to place Kavanaugh on the Court. If this, in fact, the case, it is hard to overstate what a treacherous, immoral and Machiavellian move it will constitute.
Of course, merely to vote on the nomination is not to approve it. Confirmation will require “yes” votes from all 11 Republicans on the committee — a group that includes Mr. Tillis. If any Republican votes “no,” the nomination will fail in committee.
It’s fair to say then that one of the most important congressional votes in modern American history rests on Tills’s shoulders. The senator can do the right thing, stand up for basic human decency and vote “no” on Kavanaugh, or he can refuse to rock the boat, go along with the flow like so many drunken prep school party boys apparently did at Yale and Georgetown Prep back in the 1980’s and vote “yes.”
The implications for Tillis’s political career are, of course, significant. If he summons his inner manhood and defies Republican leaders, he’ll undoubtedly face a far right primary opponent in 2020 (though that eventuality may already be likely). If, on the other hand, he meekly shuffles along with the GOP pack, he will hand any Democratic challenger a huge and powerful issue with which to attack and defeat him.
But, of course, the truly important thing here is not Tillis’s career. Rather, it is our country’s future and whether it can find a way out of the dark tunnel of corruption, racism, misogyny and lawlessness that are the hallmarks of the Trump presidency.
Throughout his career, Thom Tillis has attempted to portray himself as an arch-conservative, but not an unreasonable ideologue. And on occasion — with respect to immigrants, some aspects of Trump corruption and, recently, climate change — Tillis has, at least partially, lived up to this claim and shown himself to be willing to do and say the right thing, even if it means defying the far Right.
This Friday, however, will provide an acid test that will quickly overshadow his stances on any of those other issues. If he says “no” to rushing Kavanaugh through, he will reveal himself to be a man of some measure of principle and validate his past claims to being an independent thinker and leader. It will be an act by which he will be long remembered.
If, however, he meekly assents to the GOP power play, all those claims of independence will be revealed to be a fraud. He will, instead, be remembered as a loyal party hack and a politician who cared more about his own career than truth and justice.