That’s especially because Blasey is a compelling, even emblematic, figure, and the fight against sexual assault a good and necessary cause. The history of civil-rights abuses is often connected to such causes. The McCarthyism of the 1950s sprang from well-grounded fears of communist espionage and Soviet intentions. The well-documented miscarriages of justice in campus sexual assault investigations are the outgrowth of an effort to stamp out a real problem.
The enduring challenge of liberal societies is to react to such challenges, not overreact. The guardrails against overreaction are based in the presumption of innocence and the legal, institutional and personal norms that bolster that presumption. To deny Kavanaugh’s confirmation based on Blasey’s allegation alone — never mind those of Deborah Ramirez or Julie Swetnick — is to remove one of the guardrails for all future nominees of whatever party.
Is that a good idea? More particularly, is it an idea for liberals to embrace, given that we live in an era in which a right-wing demagogue can mobilize millions of Americans to believe just about anything? When politics becomes solely a matter of “I believe” versus “I believe,” it descends into a raw contest for power. Historically, it’s been fascists, not liberals, who tend to win such contests.