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Kavanaugh Hearing Reveals Extreme Partisanship in the Senate

Senator+Ted+Cruz+and+Brett+Kavanaugh+meet+in+Cruz%27s+office+in+July+following+Kavanaugh%27s+judicial+nomination.
Senator Ted Cruz and Brett Kavanaugh meet in Cruz's office in July following Kavanaugh's judicial nomination.

Senator Ted Cruz and Brett Kavanaugh meet in Cruz's office in July following Kavanaugh's judicial nomination.

U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

Senator Ted Cruz and Brett Kavanaugh meet in Cruz's office in July following Kavanaugh's judicial nomination.

Charlotte Varnes, Online Editor

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Scrolling through my Twitter feed the night of September 27th was a nightmare. I’m a bit of a political junkie, so I follow several news accounts, political commentators, and senators in order to receive a full picture on what’s going on in our nation’s politics. I’m usually not over-burdened by a feed filled with news, but September 27th was a whole different ballpark. It seemed as though every single account I followed, whether politically associated or not, had something to say about what happened in Congress that day between Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

I’m not going to repeat every story or every opinion piece I’ve seen, but I feel that what happened on Thursday and in the weeks leading up to it has a valuable lesson within it.

Let’s backtrack to three weeks ago, when Kavanaugh’s name was clear and the American people didn’t know who Blasey Ford was. I had turned on C-SPAN to see how the hearing was going.

I was horrified.

Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, began to question Kavanaugh about opinions on past court cases and how he would decide future court cases, which judges are not supposed to publicly speak about whatsoever. When Kavanaugh turned to the facts rather than his own personal opinion due to this rule, Harris repeatedly interrupted him on multiple answers and always tried to redirect him towards stating his opinion. Throughout the process, Harris was smug and condescending towards him, and most of her questions intended to corner Kavanaugh rather than actually discuss his cases or accomplishments.

Earlier that day, Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, announced his decision to release confidential Senate documents to the public in what he referred to as an “I am Spartacus” moment. By rules of the Senate, Booker could have been removed from office. However, those confidential documents? They were actually cleared for public release and contained nothing but emails regarding Kavanaugh’s opposition towards racial profiling in airport security lines following the September 11th attacks.

Booker and Harris have both been speculated to be running for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020, and were clearly using their membership on the Senate Judiciary Committee to grandstand in hopes that their names would make it into the national news and create sound bites for future campaign videos. In addition, their actions revealed underlying issues.

Even then, before the allegations, this process indicated the brokenness and partisan spirit in the Senate. It seems as if everyone, no matter their party affiliation, background, or other knowledge presented, is inclined to believe what they want to believe on a matter. What they believe tends to be due to party lines or personal interests, not the interests of the republic as our Founding Fathers intended.

Fast forward: a week later, the initial hearing was over and the storm seemed to have passed. Then, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office reported that she held a very important letter regarding Kavanaugh, and had handed it over to the FBI. Seemingly as soon as the news broke, an investigative news outlet called The Intercept announced that the letter had been leaked to them and involved Kavanaugh committing sexual misconduct in high school.

We all know the nitty-gritty details now. The author of the letter was Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a researcher at Stanford University and professor at Palo Alto University. She accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party while he was very drunk. Senator Feinstein’s office had been in possession of this knowledge throughout the entire hearing, but claimed that they had only acted on the information when Blasey Ford allowed them to.

After a period of negotiation, Blasey Ford and her lawyers agreed for her to testify on September 29th. This seemed like one issue that senators from both parties could get behind- after all, would they really want to confirm a sexual criminal to the highest court in our country?

However, some Republican leaders were nothing but angry regarding the new hearing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered an irate speech on Monday morning describing the late materialization of the claims as a tactic to prevent a Republican from being confirmed to the Supreme Court.

On September 28th, Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona, gave a speech on the Senate floor regarding the next day’s hearing. Flake, a rarity in the Senate who tends to vote more with his heart than his party line, began the speech by discussing the humanity of Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford- not their views, not the various opinions regarding them- but their identity as human beings. It was an emotionally-driven speech with good intent, but little of it seemed to carry into the next day.

September 29th, 2018. The morning was spent on Dr. Blasey Ford, who delivered a stirring opening testimony, and relayed as much as she remembered to a sexual crimes prosecutor and senators. The afternoon was spent on Kavanaugh, who was both lauded and attacked by senators from all points of the spectrum.

I tuned into C-SPAN as Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat of Minnesota, questioned him. Throughout her time, I felt as though she was backing him into a corner; all of her questions had to do with his drinking habits, which was a rather odd scene to see played out on national television. In her final question, she went into a lengthy history about her father being an alcoholic, then proceeded to ask Kavanaugh if he had every been drunk to the point of not remembering events. His response was, “Have you?”, which was pretty awkward to say the least (he later apologized to her).

The poor behavior of the day wasn’t limited to just Democrats; Republicans certainly had their fair share too. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina gave an extremely angry speech directed at Senate Democrats, specifically Senator Feinstein, regarding the late nature of the allegations and the extremely public matter in which the accusations were handled- even going to the point of calling the hearing process an “unethical sham.”

For the most part, watching those hearings, I felt uncomfortable. Most senators, both Democratic and Republican, did not hide their beliefs and inclinations when speaking on the Senate Floor or questioning both Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford.

I believe in the importance of speaking out against sexual assault, but I also believe that our country has a policy of innocent until proven guilty. I don’t think many of our senators feel this way, as it seems to be that only one of these two principles can be supported.

Flake is one of the few I feel took the accusations very seriously, but also kept an open mind. He was a strong Republican voice in support of having Blasey Ford testify, and recently supported pushing back the confirmation date in order to allow for a week-long FBI investigation. However, unless further incriminating evidence is found, Flake has made up his mind to vote in support of Kavanaugh.

Republicans and Democrats alike have called him spineless, but I think his actions are setting an outstanding example for the rest of the Senate: vote with American ideals, not with party lines.

George Washington, in his farewell address, specifically warned against the danger political parties would bring to American society. I feel that today, if he or any of our other Founding Fathers saw the state our Senate was in, they’d be extremely disappointed. Throughout the entire process, it has been disappointing to see that senators would rather believe what they want to than ask unbiased questions and receive honest answers.

Whether truthful or not, these allegations have turned the lives of Dr. Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh upside down. Hopefully, the Senate will learn from the damaging mistakes they have made throughout the hearing and begin to look at matters with an open mind and bipartisan spirit.

1 Comment

One Response to “Kavanaugh Hearing Reveals Extreme Partisanship in the Senate”

  1. Ryan Bain-Darby on October 1st, 2018 10:16 pm

    This was such a great article!!! It’s really hard in our time to write on political matters, but you killed it Charolette. What you wrote needed to be said and 100% agree with you

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Kavanaugh Hearing Reveals Extreme Partisanship in the Senate