The recent Supreme Court hearings have presented a bipartisan problem that has been vexing to me. The deterioration of our Senate nominating process has been revealed in these hearings. Clearly this deterioration reveals a larger problem we have with our polarized society.
Let’s get some perspective. The Democrats torpedoed Judge Bork’s nomination for purely political reasons. He was well qualified for the position, and there were no character issues. But he was simply too conservative for them and that was enough. I think it was the first time that a candidate had been stopped who was qualified but politically not acceptable. It set a new standard and started to make the Supreme Court a political institution rather than a purely legal one.
Then the Democrats ended the filibuster for lower courts. They wanted to pass appointments for the Federal Court that would allow some of President Obama’s programs to be put into place. But of course this set up the Republicans to do the same for the Supreme Court when they had an opportunity to do so. Once again the battle for the court has been escalated, but this time both political parties have dirty hands.
And let us not forget Merrick Garland. Had the Republicans put Judge Garland to a vote and voted him down for political reasons the Democrats really could not complain. They would have merely “Borked” him. But the Republicans did not even allow him a vote. Most Republicans did not even meet with him. For the first time, we had a Supreme Court seat held open simply because one political party wanted to maximize its chances to control that seat. Once again we see escalation in this fight for the Supreme Court.
This brings us to today. What Senator Feinstein did, delaying this sexual assault complaint and then adjudicating it publically, instead of in private has upped the stakes even more. It has led to this tearing apart of our nation over the Kavanaugh hearings. Had she handled this accusation in the proper way, all of this would have taken place behind closed doors. There would have been an FBI investigation, and if that investigation did not look favorable to Kavanaugh then he likely would have withdrawn his nomination. Instead we have exposed Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, and their families to all of this unnecessary drama. But the Democrats have maximized their chances of stopping Kavanaugh, so what is wrong with creating a little pain for those folks?
Clearly, we are going to keep raising the stakes in the Supreme Court fights. We are going to keep escalating this fight. I know that if Kavanaugh goes down in defeat and the Democrats win the Senate the Supreme Court seat will not be filled for two years. Will we see court packing next? Impeachment of Kavanaugh if he is seated? And if the Democrats do these things, what will the Republicans do when they take power. Will the cycle of getting one up on our political opponents ever end?
Really this Supreme Court fight just represents the toxicity of our current society. What happens in a society where half of the society feels that it must defeat the other half by any means necessary? Really when both halves feel that way. We are reaching a tipping point where we may not be able to live together in our society. And the sad thing is that I think few of us care about the polarization and hatred Americans have for each other right now. As long as we can win at any costs, then we are fine.
I wish I had a solution for this. I don’t. I do have three sons, and I fear we are going to leave them a worse society. I fear we are going to have to ask them to repair the damage we are doing to each other. The Supreme Court fight is not the problem. It is the symptom of this incredible divide we have right now and there is no easy fix for it. Kavanaugh will be confirmed or not. This poison of trying to destroy the other side will still remain with us.
I do not know the answer, but I know the responses to comments like this one. Generally we look at the other “team” and point out how they are not playing by the rules. We point out how they are ruining society. I watched a show on MSNBC the other morning where the host was obviously progressive. She noted the way President Trump’s comments dehumanize his political opponents. She seems oblivious to the progressive activists who chased Senator Cruz’s family out of a restaurant or cornered Senator Flake in an elevator. Their actions certainly seemed dehumanizing of political opponents to me. We usually do not verbally abuse individuals we think of as fully human.
Of course conservatives do the same thing. They only look at the way progressives act in unseemly ways and do not play by the rules. Take it from a political moderate. Neither side plays by the rules. As my little examination of our Supreme Court justice nomination has shown that both sides will bend the rules and create unseemly precedents when it suits them. We have a cycle of attacking our political enemies and winning at all costs, even at the costs of our society.
So while I do not have all the answers, I know it starts with this statement: Stop only seeing the problems with the other tribe. Try to be at least slightly introspective to consider that your tribe is sometimes in the wrong. Sometimes your tribe does not play by the rules. And the second you explain why your tribe can do anything it wants to win, then you are contributing to our problem. If we can start there, then maybe, just maybe, we can walk away from this movement towards separation and polarization. Maybe we can leave a better society for my boys, and your children.