When A Country Breaks: How Kavanaugh’s Hearing Highlights the Current American Moment

 Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh giving his opening statement ( source )

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh giving his opening statement (source)

 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was strong, compelling, credible, and, most importantly, believable. Judge Brett Kavanaugh came across as bitter, entitled, petulant, and rude, displaying behavior utterly unbecoming of a Supreme Court Justice.

Or perhaps Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was equally compelling, displaying indignation at what he would label a destruction of his reputation and character. And while Dr. Ford was certainly a sympathetic witness, the lack of corroborative evidence point some to feel Ford has potentially misremembered Kavanaugh as the alleged assailant. Both are dealing with the repercussions of malfeasance and deliberate mishandling of the allegations, and both are undergoing a process rendered as partisan as possible by the leaders involved.

 
 
 Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being sworn in ( source )

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being sworn in (source)

The FBI concluded its five-day investigation today, and a single copy of the report was released for all 100 members of the Senate to share. Republicans signaled their support and said it revealed no new evidence, while Democrats showed dissatisfaction at its limited scope. It’s possible we will never fully know what did or didn’t happen that night in 1982. And regardless of the outcome, the country is already broken.

Maybe asserting the country has broken apart is reactionary, possibly even unbelievable. But try and remember everything preceding this moment. Protestors dressed as the Handmaidens from Gilead have flooded the Senate halls for weeks, ironically participating in an activity that would never be allowed in The Handmaid’s Tale. Activists stood outside the Supreme Court ready to protest loudly and proudly, hours before we even knew who the nominee would be. Senators said that Kavanaugh would cause women to die while on the Supreme Court.

When some of Brett Kavanaugh’s critics argue he was the worst of the possible contenders for the Kennedy seat, they ignore that most signs and posters brought to the aforementioned protest had fill-in-the-blanks for whichever judge was chosen.

 

The Ford-Kavanaugh hearing will go down as an infamous event in American political history in the midst of an era continuously marked by controversial rhetoric and endless news cycles. Those believing Kavanaugh’s denial are labeled rape apologists. Those believing Ford’s charge are accused of throwing out the presumption of innocence that our justice system is founded on, despite the fact that Kavanaugh is not subject to a criminal trial. Whatever beliefs you have, a person that disagrees will be sure to suggest some insidious motive for having them.

The hearings come at the junction of a defining moment in our country’s reckoning with misogyny and sexual misconduct and a heightened polarization threatening the efficacy of our governance. It’s rather difficult to see an outcome that unifies us, or even one that doesn’t push us further apart.

Brett Kavanaugh has made clear he will not withdraw, and even if he does, his supporters will likely claim he did so to stop the attacks on his character. If he is confirmed, those on the left are already suggesting court packing as a counter-punch (though they have argued this in some form since Kennedy first announced his retirement). If his nomination is shot down by the Senate, the right has stated its intention to use similar tactics against Democratic nominees.

Maybe we can figure out a path from this polarized darkness by looking back at where this division began, but we cannot even agree on that.

Was it the election of Donald Trump in 2016 despite several racist and derogatory remarks about Hispanics?

Or was it in the 2012 election, where Mitt Romney was torn apart by the media and the Obama campaign team, with Joe Biden claiming Romney’s policies would “put [African Americans] back in chains.”

It’s possible this stems from responses to the financial crisis, or the Iraq War, or Bill Clinton’s scandalous behavior and rape allegations.

Or maybe this division has lived within us since the founding of our country, and we only truly notice it now due to increasing free expression on social media?

The impossibility to point to the cause of the problem mirrors the inability to point to a solution. However, Kavanaugh’s hearing did make one thing incredibly clear: if people do not stop attributing the worst possible motive to views on the other side, America will not be stitched together any time soon.