Write For Us

Bitter Tenor of Senate Reflects a Nation at Odds With Itself


© T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times   Supporters of Judge Kavanaugh and President Trump rallied outside of the Capitol last week.

By ALEXANDER BURNS, The New York Times

As he helped speed Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s embattled nomination toward a vote this week, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, declared that the Senate was approaching “rock bottom” and needed to right itself.

Mr. Grassley, 85 and a senator for nearly four decades, said it was time for “mending things so we can do things in a collegial way, that the United States Senate ought to do.”

That sentiment, from a lawmaker who fiercely defended Judge Kavanaugh and helped block President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick B. Garland, drew skepticism or scorn from many in the political world. It also felt like a glaring understatement: Brute partisanship in the Senate is a symptom of a much larger national contagion.

To the right and left alike, Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination appears less like a final spasm of division — a sobering trauma, followed by calm resolution — than an event that deepens the national mood of turbulence. The country is gripped by a climate of division and distrust rivaled by few other moments in the recent past.

This time, historic grievances around race and gender are coming to a boil under the eye of a president who is dismissive of the concept of national unity. His political base passionately celebrates the combative way in which he has upended Washington, seeing it as a deserved rebuke of elite sensibilities. Mr. Trump campaigned as a rough-speaking warrior against the political establishment and its consensus economic policies, and his supporters have mainly applauded him for governing the same way.

Beyond government, the country’s collective institutions — including the news media, the clergy and even professional sports and the entertainment industry — are in turmoil, with no obvious balm within reach. The Supreme Court, long a contested body, may now be viewed emphatically by one side as an institution under shadow.

© Jose Luis Magana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images   People protested Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court outside of the Capitol in Washington on Friday.

Rather than calls for comity from political leaders like Mr. Grassley, a feeling of apprehension has pervaded the highest levels of American politics. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president, warned in Rhode Island last weekend that something greater than even the legitimacy of the judicial branch was at stake, faulting Republicans for their “blind rage” in the Supreme Court battle.

“It threatens not only the Senate and the Supreme Court,” Mr. Biden said. “It threatens the basic faith the American people have in our institutions.”

Joanne B. Freeman, a professor of American history at Yale University, said that since the nation’s founding there had only been “a handful of other times that have been this ugly,” including the run-up to the Civil War.

“There are moments in American history where we get such extreme polarization that the government no longer functions the way it’s supposed to function,” Professor Freeman said, offering a grim diagnosis of the present: “It’s a virtually systemic abandonment of norms, to a degree that I find alarming.”

The great trend in American politics has been not toward muting political disagreements but rather toward confronting them — sometimes detonating them at deafening volume over social media. Mr. Trump, in turn, became president in large part by mastering the existing divisions at the heart of the country’s culture, exploiting fissures around identity, ethnicity, sex, religion and class to forge a ferociously loyal coalition that represents a minority of the country but votes with disproportionate power.

But those divisions have only grown since 2016, and Mr. Trump has continued to embrace and aggravate them, from his equivocal response to a white-supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Va., to his mockery this week of the #MeToo movement and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who says Judge Kavanaugh attempted to rape her as a teenager. At a rally in Mississippi on Tuesday, the president flouted the pretense that support for the judge could coexist with authentic concern for victims of sexual assault.

Mr. Trump went far beyond questioning Dr. Blasey’s account or defending Judge Kavanaugh, instead ridiculing her and stoking the resentments between genders. He warned voters in Mississippi that lying women could come forward to falsely accuse their loved ones of sexual misconduct: “Think of your son,” he urged them. “Think of your husband.”

Even Republicans who are supportive of Mr. Trump’s agenda, including Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, have expressed a kind of impotent unease — even agony — over his role as a proud divider.

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a philosophical conservative who supports Judge Kavanaugh, gave an emotional speech on the Senate floor addressing the #MeToo movement and acknowledging: “We all know that the president cannot lead us through this time.”

And it was in ominous terms that Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, explained her decision on Friday to oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination. In language reminiscent of Mr. Biden’s, she told reporters that questions of the government’s legitimacy were at stake.

“I believe we’re dealing with issues right now that are bigger than the nominee and how we ensure fairness and how our legislative and judicial branch can continue to be respected,” Ms. Murkowski said. “We’re at a place where we need to begin thinking about the credibility and integrity of our institutions.”

The one thing most voters seem to agree on is that the political process itself has become intolerable. “The divisiveness now is the worst,” said Reeny Sovel, a jeweler in Fenton, Mich., who is a Democrat. “Trump said he wanted to drain the swamp but I think he’s actually inflamed it.”

Brandon Peabody, a Republican businessman in the same area, where a competitive congressional election is underway, said politics was “tough to handle right now,” even with his party on top. “The results are strong,” he said, “but the drama is hard to watch.”

If the Supreme Court faces new questions about its integrity, with Judge Kavanaugh as the cornerstone of a conservative majority, it would only worsen the court’s steady decline in public estimation. A Gallup survey measuring perceptions of major institutions found the court afflicted by the same collapse in trust afflicting the presidency, Congress, the media, banks, schools and churches. At the start of the millennium, half the country said it had substantial confidence in the Supreme Court; this year, that fraction was 37 percent.

In Gallup’s 2018 survey, the only government institutions earning powerful support from the public were the military and the police.

And those institutions, too, have fallen prey to the partisanship and cultural conflict of the time: Mr. Trump has thundered against football players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police violence, accusing them of disrespecting the flag and the armed forces. In a sign of Mr. Trump’s intense bond with his overwhelmingly white political base, nine in 10 of his supporters said they disapproved of athletes’ protests, according to New York Times polling. About three-fifths of Americans who don’t support Mr. Trump view the protests favorably.

Mr. Trump’s supporters also, with near unanimity, disbelieve Dr. Blasey’s account of being assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh in the 1980s. Among voters who disapprove of Mr. Trump, just 6 percent disbelieve the allegations.

For all the public expressions of angst, there is little obvious appetite on the left or right for rebuilding some semblance of bipartisanship in Washington, or for lowering the temperature of political debate. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, drew eye-rolling reactions in both parties for suggesting this week that the Senate could return the standard for ending debate on a Supreme Court nomination to 60 votes — a threshold abolished last year by Republicans, after Democrats ended it for lower-court nominations under the Obama administration.

More in line with the mood of the Democratic base has been Michael Avenatti, the Trump-bashing trial lawyer who is exploring a run for president. He has called for adding two seats to the Supreme Court and filling them with Democratic appointees, and impeaching Judge Kavanaugh if he is seated. On Friday, as Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination neared a vote, Mr. Avenatti attacked the “old approach” of Democrats, urging instead: “We must fight fire with fire.”

There remains, chiefly among moderate elites and independent voters, a melancholy hope that somehow a new era of conciliation — even cooperation — might take hold in government, perhaps once Mr. Trump is no longer president.

For her part on Friday, as she announced her support for Judge Kavanaugh, Senator Susan Collins of Maine lamented the country’s “great disunity” and an impulse, among different tribes of Americans, toward “extreme ill will toward those who disagree with them.”

“One can only hope that the Kavanaugh nomination is where the process has finally hit rock bottom,” Ms. Collins said.


Note: If you think this story need more information or correction, feel free to comment below your opinion and reaction.

Politics - U.S. Daily News: Bitter Tenor of Senate Reflects a Nation at Odds With Itself
Bitter Tenor of Senate Reflects a Nation at Odds With Itself
Politics - U.S. Daily News
Loaded All Posts Not found any posts VIEW ALL Read More Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS PREMIUM CONTENT IS LOCKED STEP 1: Share. STEP 2: Click the link you shared to unlock Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy