There’s a quote from Washington’s farewell address that’s liberally applied when vilifying political parties in contemporary America.
“…they (parties) are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Parties are evil. Washington said it and we’ve since learned it. They serve themselves at the expense of America.
This is the mantra of the independent. Or maybe more cynically, of the partisan trying to urge opponents to be less committed to their opposition.
It’s helpful to realize what place quotes from our centuries dead founders ought to play in modern discourse. They weren’t deep secrets of accountable government coming from political deities with an all knowing view of the arc of human events, from beginning to end. They were proclamations of men from the cradle of democracy with far less knowledge and experience with it than we have today.
Their founding genius was the course set and the crude methods they fashioned to travel it. Not sooth saying on what the journey would bring. Or how one was to react once encountering it. For all Washington’s stoic genius, he got this one wrong.
Political parties haven’t, and won’t, destroy us. On the contrary, they’ve enabled broad coalitions of governed to agree on basic principles for decisions in government. They are a non-optional part of democracy.
They define first principles. They give us sides to choose.
Today at 5PM EST, the Senate is going give us a clear view of what contemporary sides are when they vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
Kavanaugh was selected by a democratically elected president to replace a retiring justice. That retiring justice, having served for 30 years on the Supreme Court as the non-partisan “swing vote”, recommended Kavanaugh, one of his former clerks. When selected, Brett Kavanaugh, based on his positions, experience and endorsement by Kennedy, was considered the most logical pick for the position. It was one of the few conventional decisions President Trump has made.
The Senate conducted hearings. They heard testimony, including an accusation of sexual assault that occurred when Kavanaugh was a minor. We heard about the nominee’s college behavior. We learned about his yearbook blurb and what it may or may not have meant. By any reasonable standard, Brett Kavanaugh was vetted.
Enough or too much is a political debate.
I’ve made my views clear. It’s hard to see how, with what’s at stake, a Justice Kavanaugh will be a healing presence in an American government that so deeply needs healing. And yes I get that there’s some chance that I’m being unfair in my opinion. It’s also my view that opinions could change the instant Brett Kavanaugh expresses, from the bench, that Roe v Wade is settled law, not up for further judicial review.
It’s not my views that count right now though. It’s the 100 men and women of the United States Senate.
This is the process.
What we’ll learn today, if we’re smart, will be unwritten planks in the 2018 election and beyond. Whether we have narrow or broad definitions of what is considered sexual assault. I prefer broad. Whether we have narrow or broad definitions of acceptable behavior for our elected or lifetime appointed members of government. I prefer narrow.
Those calling for candidates to withdraw, for law enforcement to intervene or for future impeachment activities are doing it again. That thing we did two years ago when we threw around the “D” word–disqualified– liberally in hopes that the ref would stop the fight and let us off the hook.
This selection was decided when we elected Donald Trump president and voted a Republican majority in the House and Senate. We can’t rewrite the score. Nor does screaming Merrick Garland in response change it. The Senate, even in 2016, was elected by us. And they placed a huge bet on Trump. And they won. Because of our vote.
There’s only one way out of this. If this outcome, a president with broad definitions of acceptable behavior selecting a supreme court candidate with some evidence of the same, then there’s only one way out, by design.
The system, is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. It only works, if we do the same.
34 days six hours until the election.
759 days until the 2020 election. Register. Vote.
It’s the only way out.