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When Reagan Won in 1980, Kagan Hit the Vodka and Cried

When she was still a student at Princeton University, Elena Kagan spent the summer of 1980 working for the Senate campaign of Rep. Liz Holtzman (D-NY). After Holtzman was defeated by Al D’Amato in the GOP landslide that elected Ronald Reagan, Kagan wrote a remarkable article for the Daily Princetonian:

Where I grew up — on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — nobody ever admitted to voting Republican. The real contests for Congress and the state legislatures occurred in early September, when the Democratic primary was held. And the people who won those races and who then took the November elections with some 80 per cent of the vote were real Democrats — not the closet Republicans that one sees so often these days but men and women committed to liberal principles and motivated by the ideal of an affirmative and compassionate government.
Perhaps because of this background, I absorbed such liberal principles early . . . And that was why at 12:45 Wednesday morning, when I listened to Liz Holtzman hoarsely proclaim that “the only thing I intended to lose in this campaign is my voice,” I wanted desperately to believe her. And that was why, at 5:00 that same morning, when I finally realized that her faith just wasn’t going to be confirmed, I sat down and cried. . . .
I worked for Liz Holtzman last summer — some 14 hours a day, six days a week. So that night I was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, attending what I was fairly certain was going to be a celebration. Instead, it was a wake. And let me tell you there is nothing more depressing than drinking vodka and tonics and watching Walter Cronkite with 500 other people whose expectations had differed similarly from reality.
I got kind of drunk that night. A lot of people did. Most of us had grown to admire, even to love, Liz or rather, not Liz herself — actually, she was not terribly personable — but her intelligence, her integrity, her ideals. The defeat of those qualities by an ultra-conservative machine politician just come from the town of Hempstead was not a pleasant thing to watch. . . .
Reagan I expected, but Symms, Abdnor, Quayle and Grassley I did not. Even after the returns came in, I found it hard to conceive of the victories of these anonymous but Moral Majority-backed opponents of Senators Church, McGovern, Bayh and Culver, these avengers of “innocent life” and the B-1 Bomber, these beneficiaries of a general turn to the right and a profound disorganization on the left. . . .

In other words, the election of Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley — a member of the Judiciary Committee now tasked with considering her Supreme Court confirmation — sent young Elena Kagan into a drunken crying jag.

But wait: There’s more.

You may have never heard of Liz Holtzman, whose "intelligence," "integrity" and "ideals" Kagan so admired. But in 2006, Holtzman wrote a book with left-wing journalist Cynthia L. Cooper called The Impeachment of George W. Bush. Publisher’s Weekly described it as "a compact but thorough legal and constitutional accounting of five major issues upon which they claim the current president could be impeached. They are ‘Deceptions into Taking the Country into War in Iraq’; ‘Reckless Indifference to Human Life in Katrina and Iraq’; ‘Illegal Wiretapping and Surveillance of Americans’; ‘Permitting Torture’; and ‘Leaking Classified Information.’ "

Too bad none of the senators on the Judiciary Committee bothered to ask Kagan about that.

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