December 30, 2018

How the Supreme Court’s Polarization Represents America’s Intense Separation

Eva Hale ‘20
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After fighting tooth and nail for his spot, Judge Brett Kavanaugh is now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Despite the accusations of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – and other women – Kavanaugh passed through a Republican Senate apparently willing to overlook character and temperament issues in order to get their tax cuts and other legislative desires
Kavanaugh’s opposition say that his issues are not only in the allegations against him, but in his demeanor and angry outbursts. Despite the credibility of  Dr. Ford, who took a polygraph test and described this event to her therapist before Kavanaugh had ever been nominated, it was not enough to persuade the Republican majority to believe her.
“I think there are serious questions about both his credibility and his temperament,” Senator Chuck Schumer said. Based on his testimony, in which he frequently started yelling and, at a point, crying, more than 2,400 law professors across the country signed a letter to the Senate stating, “Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that should be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.”
Kavanaugh’s supporters say the way Democrats handled this situation was unjust and overtly political.
“What you [Democrats] want to do is destroy this guy's life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said. “To my Republican colleagues, if you vote ‘no,’ you're legitimizing the most despicable thing that I have seen in my entire time in politics.”
Graham, in his five-minute speech during the hearings – which may well be the reason Kavanaugh was confirmed – highlighted that Democratic Senators, given information about Ford’s accusation, wanted to hold it for as long as possible, in an attempt to give themselves a chance to hold off Kavanaugh’s confirmation until the midterm elections, in which could perhaps flip the Senate, vote against Kavanaugh and nominate another judge.
The Supreme Court is now more conservative than it has been in decades. The newly conservative court will move the law further right on several divisive issues, including abortion, affirmative action, voting and gun rights. This court’s conservative justices are also far younger than the court’s senior liberals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85 and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 80, who are both extraordinarily older than most on the Conservative side.
Another thing that the court lost with Anthony Kennedy’s retirement is a swing vote, or a justice whose vote could go either way. In the past, justices such as Sandra Day O'Connor and Lewis F. Powell Jr. have represented that crucial swing vote. But now, instead of being a moderate and balanced arbiter, the Supreme Court will represent the deep polarization of American society and politicization of the court. It will have five distinctly conservative judges, nominated by George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, or Donald Trump and it will have four distinctly liberal judges, nominated by Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

“One reality is increasingly clear about the Supreme Court,” Carl Hulse, chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, said. “It has become another polarized institution in the polarized capital of a polarized nation.”

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