Kavanaugh Hearings through the Eyes of Jane Austen
“We need a Mr. Darcy on the Supreme Court – not a Wickham!” I yelled at my television last week, as I followed every excruciating minute of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Admittedly, the Jane Austen litmus test has little influence over the Senate Judiciary Committee. (How many of those GOP senators have even read "Pride and Prejudice" anyway, I wonder?). But observing this crazy circus through a Jane Austen lens is a worthwhile distraction. At the very least, it got me to stop screaming at the TV.
Surely, Jane would prefer a man like Emma’s steady Mr. Knightley on the Supreme Court rather than an unreliable, philandering Willoughby? Given the multiple references to beer and inebriation, some Austen fans might judge (pun intended!) Mr. Kavanaugh to be more of a Wickham. Wickham did, indeed, try to seduce a 15-year-old girl, but Kavanaugh strikes me as a Willoughby type: brightness and charm when he gets what he wants, but spineless and vindictive when his past catches up to him.
Finding a Jane Austen equivalent for Judge Kavanaugh was so soothing that I decided to continue, starting with Senator Grassley. He reminded me of Emma Woodhouse’s father – a doddering old man who fails to recognize reality when it stares him in the face. Mr. Woodhouse also has a hard time remembering people’s names, which might explain why Grassley used the word “female” so many times over the course of the day. Perhaps he had a hard time keeping all those women’s names straight.
To be fair, when Senator Grassley referred to a “female,” he said it with less venom than some of his fellow Republicans. As for Rachel Mitchell, the “female prosecutor” the GOP hired to question Christine Blasey Ford, I have two possible Austen characters in mind. One option is Mary Bennett, also from "Pride and Prejudice" – the dour, oft-interrupted younger sister of the witty Miss Elizabeth Bennett. If I were inclined to more charitable reflection, I might also consider the heroine from "Persuasion" – Miss Anne Elliot. Anne spent a great deal of the book questioning a bad decision she had made. (In Ms. Mitchell’s case, perhaps the bad decision will end up being accepting the gig in the first place.)
And let us not forget Mr. Collins – the clownish cousin of Miss Elizabeth Bennett, who is in line to inherit the Bennett’s estate. I’ve got to give this part to Senator Lindsey Graham. Like Collins, Graham is condescending. “Jeff is not a lawyer. This is hard,” he said of his GOP colleague Senator Jeff Flake, right after Flake stepped on the breaks and
called for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. And, like Collins, Graham is prone to hyperbole. “This is not a job interview,” he told Kavanaugh. “This is hell.” Take a good look then, Senator Graham. You never know what fate awaits you.
And what about Austen’s best bromantic couple – the Misters Bingley and Darcy? At first reckoning, these two eligible bachelors could not appear more different. Bingley is smiling and eager to please, while Darcy is taciturn and judgmental. Enter Chris Coons and Jeff Flake – senators from opposite sides of the political divide who manage to remain civil and – according to them, anyway – friendly. I cast Senator Coons as Mr. Bingley – largely because I really want to believe that Senator Flake will be our Mr. Darcy. Fitzwilliam Darcy may have been proud and disagreeable in the beginning of "Pride and Prejudice," but he evolved into a selfless hero when the Bennetts stood on the brink of ruin.
Will Jeff Flake turn out to be our Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, stepping in to save a country on the brink of ruin? We will know, I suppose, within a period “of limited time and scope.” But if he is unwilling to fill Mr. Darcy’s very big shoes, then I’ve got my eyes on Senator Cory Booker for that role. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But he’ll get there.