Kavanagh Strikes Divide in Campus Politics

The fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation is over, and he will be the next Supreme Court Justice on the bench. The process has been closely watched and hotly contested due to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault dating back to Kavanaugh’s high school years.

North Dakotans have stood idly by, and the result of Kavanaugh’s appointment has impacted many, both in the state and on the North Dakota State campus.

Jenika Rufer, a graduate student at NDSU, was not only impacted by the recent events but she also actively perused a no vote on the confirmation through her work with Planned Parenthood and the People for the American Way.

Rufer works for the Washington D.C. based company and was involved in “getting people around here to call (Sen. Heidi Heitkamp), let her know that we want her to vote no on Kavanaugh and just do everything we could to keep him out of office.”

Heitkamp did end up voting no, but the outcome is still disappointing, according to Rufer. “We pretty much knew how it was going to go,” Rufer said. “But I guess we were kind of hoping for a surprise.” Rufer said the ongoing support for Kavanaugh is disheartening because it sets a bad example for how women should be treated.

“I guess we were kind of hoping for a surprise.” – Jenika Rufer

The confirmation makes the work she does tougher but also shows how important activism is, according to Rufer.

Rufer said people underestimate how big of an impact a majority Republican Supreme Court will be. “There are 12 abortion cases up for the Supreme Court to hear,” Rufer said. The Republican majority is “pretty terrifying” when it comes to these cases and women’s reproductive health in general.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation should not have been a divisive issue for the Senate, according to Rufer. She said the Senate should have looked at who he was as a person, as a judge and his qualifications and not the political factions at play.

After Ford testified, Rufer said the Republicans took the allegations as a liberal vendetta against white men, and the Democrats focused more on his qualifications.

Locally, the hearings impacted Heitkamp, who said she voted with her conscience and not in the best interest of her politics. In her work with People for the American Way, Rufer said she informed Heitkamp that Kavanaugh was “bad for the issues she stands for like pre-existing conditions, women’s reproductive health (and) indigenous people.” Rufer said they let Heitkamp know that if she voted no, they would work to get her re-elected in November.

Cale Dunwoody, president of the NDSU College Republicans, said having another Republican on the Supreme Court means the Constitution will be followed to the letter. “I think it’s very vital for Republicans that we follow the Constitution as it was written,” Dunwoody said. “I don’t believe it’s a live document.”

Dunwoody said there are ways to change the Constitution, but that judicial review should not be one of those ways.

Dunwoody said Kavanaugh is a judge who “really does his homework.” According to Dunwoody, Kavanaugh is reading articles and writing explanations of why he voted the way he did.

Politically, the confirmation of Kavanaugh, along with the new NAFTA trade deal and tax cuts, will boost President Trump and the Republicans, according to Dunwoody. The confirmation of Kavanaugh will show that the Democrats are “really against the Republicans,” Dunwoody said.

“It’s pretty common now for judges to take a side indirectly” – Cale Dunwoody

Dunwoody said Rep. Kevin Cramer stands to benefit from this confirmation in the midterms. “60 percent of North Dakotans wanted Kavanaugh confirmed,” Dunwoody said. The no vote from Heitkamp might show voters that she is not on the side of North Dakotans. “If 60 percent of North Dakota is approving Brett Kavanaugh, then her vote should have been yes; her thumb should have been up.”

One of the main issues many took with the now Justice Kavanaugh were his opening remarks where he blamed a Democratic conspiracy for Ford coming forward with a sexual assault allegation.

Dunwoody said no judge is completely impartial. “It’s pretty common now for judges to take a side indirectly,” he said.

This specific outburst was out of frustration with the process, according to Dunwoody. “(Kavanaugh’s) upset with the Democratic Party with the way they have treated him,” Dunwoody said.

Despite this slant, Dunwoody said we have to accept his confirmation. Dunwoody also said Kavanaugh is “not going to let politics affect his decisions on the Court.”

According to Dunwoody, an example from Kavanaugh’s past is when he sided with a terrorist against the United States; many Republicans would not have made that decision.

When it comes to the handling of Ford’s allegations, Dunwoody said, “Diane Feinstein should have talked to her fellow senators a little more. There also should have been way more communication between parties as information surfaced.”

The committee should have had more control over the proceedings, as there were many outbursts that dragged the proceeding out for far too long, according to Dunwoody.

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