American politics today highlights deep divisions. The nomination of Judge Kavanaugh is the latest example of our country’s polarization.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated in late summer by President Trump to replace swing justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh, a notably conservative judge, was chosen from a pre-approved list of candidates written by the Federalist society, a conservative interest group.
According to Trump, his background as a former aide to President Bush, judge on the D.C Circuit Court and experience as an originalist in conservative legal circles, make him a qualified candidate.
When talking about what qualities presidents look for in Supreme Court Justice, AP American Government teacher Dr. Duwel says “ fidelity to the Constitution, legal experience, prior judge experience”. Kavanaugh’s nomination stirred controversy over his possible influence on contentious issues such as Roe v. Wade.
“…in the past couple years the courts have had some very big decisions, upholding Roe v. Wade,” says Dr. Duwel.
“…I think we have to understand the evolution of the judiciary, and I think that the courts have become such policymakers… so control over that is really contentious.” Dr. Duwel adds.
According to Axios, before the announcement of his nomination, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had reached out to her congresswoman Rep. Anna Eshoo with her concerns about Kavanaugh, when she heard he was a possible candidate. Then when she heard about his nomination, she sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein accusing Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her during the summer of 1982. These accusations were kept confidential by Feinstein for over a month at Dr. Ford’s request.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee started in early September with no mentions of accusations until September 12 when it was released by the online news publication The Intercept. The letter was then forwarded by the FBI to the White House counsel, as protocol for Supreme Justice nominee background checks.
“The circus atmosphere that has been created since my Democratic colleagues first leaked Dr. Ford’s allegations to the media two weeks ago after sitting on them for six weeks, I might add, has brought us to our worst in our politics,” said Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) expressing his disapproval.
Feinstein denies that she or her staff leaked the letter, and the bureau chief at The Intercept and original author of the story, Ryan Grimke tweeted that “Feinstein’s staff did not leak the letter to The Intercept.”
According to Axios, soon after it came out that Feinstein had the letter, Dr. Ford went public with her story, alleging in a Washington Post report, “Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge pushed her into a bedroom at a party, where Kavanaugh pinned her down, attempted to remove her clothing, held his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream for help and – as she believes it – attempted to rape her”.
The next day, Kavanaugh issued a statement denying these claims, saying “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes – to her or to anyone.”
After Kavanaugh released this statement, another woman, Deborah Ramirez came forward in an report in The New Yorker. Kavanaugh denied this allega- tion in his own statement, while White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec released a statement ac- cusing Democrats of coordinating these allegations in order to take down Judge Kavanaugh.
“This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man,” said Kupec.
On September 27, both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kavanaugh gave an opening statement, refuting all the allegations against him, saying “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
Dr. Ford was asked to describe the incident in detail, answering many questions about the events preceding and following the attack. When Senator Dick Durbin (III) asked, “With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?” Ford said, “100 percent.”
The day after Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford’s testimony, the Judiciary Committee voted to move Kavanaugh’s nomination forward to the Senate floor, but Republican Senator Jeff Flake called for a one-week FBI investigation. The Senate Judiciary then asked President Trump to order an FBI investigation.
The White House directed the FBI to interview anyone they thought was relevant to their investigation as long as it was “limited in scope and completed in less than one week.”
After a week, the FBI presented its findings to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The next day the Senate voted 51-49 to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination, with the final vote taking place the following day.
On Saturday, October 6, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a close 50-48 vote, with Senator Joe Manchin being the only Democrat to vote “yes”, and Senator Lisa Murkowski being the only Republican to vote “no”. Kavanaugh was administered the constitutional oath by Chief Justice John Roberts, and the judicial oath by now retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The following Monday he attended a swearing-in ceremony at the White House with President Trump.
Kavanaugh’s nomination and the hearings have thrust the polarization of our government so harshly forward upon us, it has become one of the biggest issues of the year. It forces us to reassess our values and determine which is more important: politics and the need to obtain power, or to seek out truth and have justice be served, regardless of which party benefits from the outcome. This question will persist, in the minds of our elected officials and in us, individuals who will one day run this country and the world.