Kavanaugh and a polarised nation

US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during a confirmation hearing in Washington DC. Photo:...
Brett Kavanaugh. Photo: ODT files
The divisions in the United States are brutal. On one side are the conservatives, the Republicans whose view of the world is more traditional. On the other are the progressives determined to change the world for the better, as they see it.

The distasteful confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a victory for conservative viewpoints on two counts. First, it tips the balance of the court to the right. Judges are appointed for life and many conservatives are now confident ``liberal'' law and constitution interpretations can be reversed. Second, the fact and the way the credible sexual assault allegation from Judge Kavanaugh's past was overridden is a blow to the rights of women.

Predictably, President Donald Trump is triumphant. He stuck with his nominee and the Senate supported him. The testimony of Christine Blasey Ford about the alleged assault by Judge Kavanaugh as a teenager was insufficient to sway a crucial handful of votes. Neither were Judge Kavanaugh's intemperate outbursts and inconsistent responses to questions. He proved himself far from judicial.

Sadly, the Republicans voted together in solidarity. The mana of the court and the United States has suffered.

Many Republicans - voters and legislators - have shown they can put aside their personal abhorrence of President Trump and his erratic and dangerous behaviour for the sake of the wider conservative cause, for a dream of American as they believe it once was. As for Judge Kavanaugh's nomination, the Republican senators put loyalty to their wider aims and their solidarity ahead of what is right. Even if Prof Ford's reluctant and convincing evidence could not be proved, Judge Kavanaugh's reactions and obfuscations proved he should have been stood aside.

The appointment became a test for the two sides in what is becoming known as the culture wars. Over the years the progressives have made gains, and rights have been extended on sexual orientation and forms of discrimination. The #MeToo Movement has exposed male malfeasance, and other ``social justice'' matters have received attention.

Much of this is, however, deeply unsettling, and a backlash is unsurprising. It came in the election of Mr Trump itself, and in the rejection of the ``liberal elite'' and the liberal media. Conservative and reactionary Americans voted a plague on those houses.

In-between America has been brought along with some change, but there remains unease. While the hard-core rights activists and Mr Trump's core support base receive the primary attention, many Americans fit neither camp. Under such polarisation, the centre can be uncertain in which direction to swing.

This will be crucial in the looming midterm elections. Can Americans be persuaded in sufficient numbers to complete an expected tilt in the Congress so the Republicans lose their majority? Can they, crucially, be convinced to give the Democrats a majority in the Senate, a more difficult hurdle.

The Democrats, somehow, have to appeal broadly to citizens who are perturbed by rapid change in society, who do not go along with significant parts of the progressive package. Many live ``ordinary'' lives and are suspicious of being told what to think. They have their values and their decency, and the images from Washington DC of women chanting ``shame'' will not spur the anger and passion it does from those committed to sexual justice.

Principled Republicans made a deal with the devil in their support of Mr Trump, and their backing of Judge Kavanaugh is similarly tainted. Mr Trump should have been forced to come up with a fresh nomination. Of course, that person, too, would be conservative. Hopefully, however, that judge would not have proved so unsuitable.

Of course, if the gavel was in the other hand, would the Democrats likewise be willing to ignore principles for their greater good and their united purpose? Unfortunately, probably yes.

 

Comments

The editorial doesn't mention that the Democrats sat on Christine Ford's allegations for 2 months and pulled them out at the last minute to extract maximum political damage from this. They used the poor woman in a quite sickening way.

It is not possible to go through an inquisitorial ordeal for no reason. Not 'poor', brave. Trumpian comments about 'pageant' contestants were sickening. There are the tribes, then there are the Americans with moral compass. Labelling Radical Republicans and the further Right "Conservative" is incongruent. Conservatives conserve.

 

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