Recovering alcoholics often talk about “hitting bottom.” By that they generally mean reaching that point where you finally surrender to your powerlessness over alcohol, where you are finally willing to do whatever it takes to escape its clutch on you.
I have wondered for some time when and how we would “hit the bottom” of our descent into the political pit down which we have been going for the past decade and more. During that time, we have traded reasoned discourse for the rhetoric of ridicule and caricature. We have traded calm and measured interchange for shouting and labeling. We have treated political issues, not as key elements of our commitment to the American ideal, but rather as selling a brand. We have, in sum, succumbed to the addiction of self-absorption and of enmity toward those who would oppose us.
The Kavanaugh affair provides some hope that we have finally reached our bottom, and that we will, on reflection, be brought, through that affair, to recognize how profoundly our addiction to the politics of enmity has damaged our commitment to the American ideals and the American way of government.
Brett Kavanaugh presents the purest example possible of the installing of a governmental figure purely to attain political goals. He is certainly not the most intelligent candidate available. After all, what intelligent person would deliver the snarling tirade that he did? Clever, maybe. Intelligent? Not so much. He has made it clear that he is going to the Supreme Court to carry out the wishes of those who nominated him. He has repeatedly lied to Congress. When attacked for it, he followed White House orders and showed up on Fox News, that television station noted most for its blind commitment to right wing causes, and he claimed, ironically, that he was actually seeking “fairness.” He will vote to repeal Roe v. Wade. He will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He will vote to limit the rights of victims of sexual assault. He will vote in approval of deregulation and the slashing of benefits for the needy. He will stand in lifelong opposition to the consideration of the rights of others than those who have put him on the Court. He will, in sum, be anything but the considerate and fair-thinking jurist that we so desperately need on the highest court in the land, the last bastion of reason in a politically tilted America.
Our salvation will come in waking up to what we have done here. We have finally driven our politics of opposition all the way to America’s court of last resort, the one place where reason has a chance to triumph over partisanship. I think, I hope, that the thinking and caring people of the United States will wake up and realize that the politics of opposition is the doorway to the death of the American way of government. As I have said before, we are great, and we have always been great, not in our economics or our military might but in the profound meaningfulness of our ideals. We are great, and we have always been great, because our country is founded on, and exists for, the inalienable rights of all human beings. We were far from that ideal at our inception, but we have crept, in fits and starts, toward its realization. We conquered slavery. We rejected genocide. We recognized the rights of women. We gave aid to the unfortunate and the oppressed and the downtrodden. We have taken many steps backward, but always we made net gains toward the fulfillment of those ideals.
Bret Kavanaugh stands as a personification of what happens to us when we stop working toward the American ideal. I think we will realize that. I think we will, in that realization, find a way to return to the pursuit of the ideal of the inalienable rights of others. I think we will surrender, that we will do whatever it takes to get back to being real Americans.
So long as he remains on the Court, Bret Kavanaugh will remind us how easy it is to abandon our ideals, and how lethal it is to do so. We are just too good a people not to see that. We will not just survive this. We will rise from it.