Toxic Tribalism

Dare I write about this subject at the risk of being trolled? Okay, I’m bursting to exorcise the feelings of revulsion I have been living with since Brett Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court.

Like millions of people, men as well as women, I believe Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. More importantly, if I imagine that I did not believe her, I would still think that Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was appalling. His display of petulance, self-pity and political partisanship is not befitting a member of America’s highest court.

With only one week allowed for the FBI to investigate and with a Republican majority in the Senate, Kavanaugh’s appointment came as no surprise. The appointment of Clarence Thomas in 1991 after the compelling testimony of workplace sexual harassment by Anita Hill yielded the same results. But here are the key differences that stirred my disgust these past weeks. Firstly, Anita Hill was alone in her allegations; two other women have come forward in the Kavanaugh case. The Hill vs Thomas standoff was over 30 years ago, before Harvey Weinstein and before #MeToo – this time, the nomination process could have ended differently. The greatest differences of all have been the reactions of the sitting presidents. In 1991, President George Bush (senior) accepted the Senate’s decision to place Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court without accusing Anita Hill of giving ‘false testimony,’ as Trump did of Christine Blasey Ford. Nor did President Bush publicly mock Anita Hill or say anything to discredit her during the judge’s swearing in ceremony.

This country of polarised ideals has escalated into a cold civil war. And it didn’t start with Trump.  The conservative/liberal polemic has been deepening since the Clinton administration, when Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went after all things liberal, especially the Clintons – a modern couple, where the lawyer wife earned more than her politician husband. This anti-liberal fervour took on another level with the Tea Party Movement, started during the Obama years.Tribalism 2

Unlike these other waves of intense opposition, this time the initial surge is not in reaction to the presidency, but is being instigated by it. Trump has fuelled old hatreds and fears, using rallies to drum home the message, touring the political polemic into tribalism.

Some members of the Republican tribe, mainly women, actually believed Ford’s testimony, but said that Ford was ‘mistaken’ about the identity of the perpetrator. They ignore (or think we won’t notice) the fact that Ford said she was ‘100%’ certain that it was Brett Kavanaugh. In other words, these Republicans know better, but pretend that they don’t in order to remain loyal to their tribe. I don’t meant to oversimplify this – of course, there’s also political motivation. Once the questions about Kavanaugh emerged, other conservative judges could have been nominated in Kavanaugh’s place, but given the realistic time constraints and the mid-term elections coming up, the Republicans couldn’t risk having an even harder time still if there were more Democrats in the Senate.

If, dear reader, you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I too have strong political opinions. I’m a proud feminist and a liberal. I’d like to think that my feelings of being incensed over the Kavanaugh vs Ford spectacle have come from my intellect and not because I belong to a tribe that has been threatened. I fear that there could be a point in my future when my passionate views tip over into tribalism.

2 comments

  1. I don’t like Kavanaugh either, and I was disappointed that he is now on the Supreme Court.

    However given the subject matter of your post, I was puzzled over the inclusion of the Clintons without mentioning that Bill Clinton had grievous behavior toward women as well, probably worse than what Brett Kavanaugh was accused of.

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    • Thank you for your comment. I only mentioned Clinton in the context of the backlash against liberalism. Please note that I also didn’t mention the rape charges against Trump or his comments about ‘pussy’ grabbing. I tried to keep my little blog focused on the tribalism in America these days and its role in the Kavanaugh case.

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