America’s new civil war over Kavanaugh vote

Past sins: Christine Blasey Ford (left) is “100%” sure Brett Kavanaugh (centre) assaulted her.

Can the US ever be united again? Brett Kavanaugh has been sworn onto the Supreme Court, despite serious sexual assault allegations. Some say the row has pushed America to breaking point.

“The battle is over, the political war is just beginning.”

So claimed the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher after a tumultuous weekend in American politics, in which Brett Kavanaugh was voted onto the nation’s Supreme Court — despite serious sexual assault allegations levelled against him.

Before the vote on Saturday, protesters massed in Washington, DC. “Kavanaugh has got to go!” they chanted, fists raised. Hundreds were arrested and removed by police.

Their wish was not granted, with Kavanaugh’s nomination confirmed by 50 votes to 48. As a result, he is now appointed to the highest legal authority in America. Comprised of just nine judges, the Supreme Court has the final say on the most divisive issues, from gun control to abortion.

In recent weeks, his nomination has hung in the balance after several women accused him of sexual assault. Among them was Christine Blasey Ford who, in an extraordinary testimony, claimed that Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a party in 1982. He angrily denied all allegations.

His appointment in spite of these allegations only deepens a rift that is cutting through the heart of US society. Ford or Kavanaugh? For many, deciding who to support was a choice between two radically different visions of America.

Kavanaugh is deeply conservative and is backed by President Donald Trump — 84% of Republicans believed him over Ford. His nomination was described by The New Yorker as “the triumph of Trumpism.”

Then there is the wider #MeToo revolution. Its supporters declare that powerful men have escaped punishment for historic misdeeds for too long. Their opponents slam #MeToo as a politically motivated witch hunt.

“This is the second most divided time in our history,” claims political pundit William J. Bennett — surpassed only by the Civil War, he says.

The next battleground will be the midterm elections in November. If the Democrats win enough seats, they may try to oust Kavanaugh and Trump through impeachment. Journalist Andrew Sullivan claims this could even lead to “civil unrest”.

Can the US ever be united again?

Broken state

The damage cannot be undone, some argue. The Supreme Court is supposed to be a neutral body that upholds the truths of the US Constitution. With Kavanaugh on board its very legitimacy is now in danger. Furthermore, Trump used the scandal to fan hatred between Democrats and Republicans. It will soon erupt beyond his control.

Do not be pessimistic, others respond. Political opposition is the sign of a democracy in action. The Kavanaugh debate has been bitter, and many will be furious with the outcome. But talk of “civil war” is overblown and only encourages even stronger partisanship. These wounds will heal in time.

You Decide

  1. Should Kavanaugh have been given his post on the Supreme Court?
  2. Do you think that society is rigged in favour of rich and powerful men?

Activities

  1. In one minute, list all the things that you associate with America. Share your list with the class. Are most of the things good or bad? Do you think the US is a good example for other countries to follow? Why/why not?
  2. Do some research into the American Civil war. What caused it? How was it brought to an end? Could it have been avoided? Do you think there are any strong parallels between that period and what is happening now? Explain your reasoning.

Some People Say...

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Abraham Lincoln

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Appointments to justice of the Supreme Court are for life. There are nine justices on the court. Following Kavanaugh’s appointment, conservative lawmakers outnumber the left-leaning justices five to four. This is expected to have a big impact on the decisions the court makes for years to come.
What do we not know?
While Ford delivered her testimony to the Senate, no criminal charges have been brought against Kavanaugh. He denies all the allegations, and we do not know exactly what happened on the night in question. The Democrats will only get the chance to impeach, and possibly remove, Kavanaugh if they take control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming midterm elections.

Word Watch

50 votes to 48
Appointments to the Supreme Court are decided by votes cast in the Senate. Decided by just two votes, this was the closest nomination vote since 1881.
84%
According to pollsters from Quinnipiac University. Support for Ford also followed partisan lines, with 86% of Democrats believing her testimony.
#MeToo
A hashtag which gained prominence after accusations of sexual assault against film producer Harvey Weinstein were made public last year. It encourages people to share personal stories of harassment and abuse. Other high-profile figures who have been accused of sexual misconduct include Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and Bill O’Reilly.
Civil War
Conflict in the United States lasting from 1861 to 1865. It was fought between Confederate and Union forces, and was principally sparked by the issue of slavery. Approximately 750,000 people died.
Impeachment
Process by which a public official is formally charged with misconduct, which can lead to their removal from power.
Partisanship
Always showing strong bias towards a particular cause or political party.