Forum

Party affiliation, again, trumps ethics

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The quest for a replacement Associate Justice on the Supreme Court continues. After former Justice Anthony Kennedy began his retirement over the past summer, many people feared for the future of democracy and for policies regarding topics such as reproductive rights, freedom of speech, LGBTQ+ rights, and capital punishment. He was the vote that swung the ultimate decision in many cases over the past few decades. Given President Trump's history of picks for officials in Washington, many were not expecting the best.

Brett Kavanaugh, an American judge and President Donald Trump's pick for the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, recently faced hearings before he could officially fill in the Supreme Court. Even before the hearings, many voices from the left tried to stop Kavanaugh, and understandably so. Before being elected president, Trump claimed he would cut back on abortion, claiming "[we should] be appointing pro-life judges." Kavanaugh recently hit the nail on the coffin when he called birth control "abortion-inducing drugs". Kavanaugh was similarly dodgy in response to other topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, sexual harassment, and executive power.

It's unnerving when uneducated voices hold strong opinions based on inaccuracies and falsehoods (just log on to any political Twitter thread and read the tweets below it); it's another thing to see those voices having an impact on policies that affect thousands of lives.

Even if you give Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt by saying that his conflation of birth control with abortions was an accident, he is still a questionable pick. Throughout the hearings, he had been caught lying under oath on multiple occasions.

The anonymous writer of a Slate article claimed to have made "some of the stolen memos that Brett Kavanaugh lied to the Senate about." In the early 2000s, Kavanaugh "received confidential memos, letters, and talking points of Democratic staffers stolen by GOP Senate aide Manuel Miranda." Although receiving them is not an impeachable offense, lying under oath is. The Slate article shows Kavanaugh's history of lying about receiving the memos. More recently, Sen. Patrick Leahy, during the current hearing, brought up previously hidden emails where Miranda had asked to see Kavanaugh in person to "give him 'paper' files with 'useful info to map out [Senators Joe] Biden and [Dianne] Feinstein, and others.'" When confronted, Kavanaugh claimed that he did not know that the information provided was done inappropriately and tried to justify himself by claiming it is "common to prepare nominees with material they believed would be asked... That is the coin of the realm." All politicians eventually lie or give misleading information for political gain, but the notable distinction here is that all of this happened while Kavanaugh was under oath. Perjury should immediately disqualify a candidate, but the hearings continued nevertheless.

Kavanaugh highlights a trend that has been continuing in our country: identity politics. It's not new that politicians shift their behavior or platform to gain power, but the seemingly tribalistic view on political parties has definitely been enhanced over the years. Kennedy, although conservative, valued ideals over his political party. This did follow with its fair share of criticism, but his vote — which contrasted the interests of the party he represented — ultimately swung in favor of reproductive rights. Even if it was a slap in the face for his party, Kennedy realized that what was more valuable than any party was the nation that he ultimately represents. Was the Supreme Court perfect with Kennedy? Of course not. However, we lost a bipartisan voice in the Supreme Court who prioritized the future of his country over the future of his party. Now eyeing his vacant seat, we find a man who is a puppet for a party.

Furthermore, regarding Kavanaugh's hearings, I have one question: where are the chants from the people who shouted "lock her up" in response to then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her email scandal? Clinton deserved to face consequences for putting national security at stake and for not treating confidential information properly. However, those who chanted "lock her up" appear silent on Kavanaugh. Why does one party's wrongdoing count whereas another party — one that just so happens to align with one's political views — can release a representative and not face consequences?

The question above is hypothetical; this, too, is greatly because of identity politics and its divisive nature. One's respective party is put on a moral pedestal whereas the other is berated. This has been evident in our current President's mentality; despite allegations of then-Senate candidate Roy Moore, Trump had no problem endorsing Moore because of his party affiliation. Many people who supported Trump did so because they prioritized party over ideals. Statements such as "I'd rather be Russian than a Democrat" puts committing treason above being affiliated with a different party.

The left is not exempt from this phenomena either. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attempted to degrade those who planned on using their votes for her opposing candidate as a "basket of deplorables", disregarding her own shortcomings as a candidate. Some progressives blasted former President Barack Obama after he criticized identity politics by claiming people on all ends of the political spectrum cannot "out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start...[and] insist that those who aren't like you — because they are white, or because they are male — that somehow there’s no way they can understand what I'm feeling, that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters."

Politics has never been a clean topic; there is a good reason we avoid politics in many occasions. However, it is perhaps now more imperative than ever to be vigilant of our dialogue, our mindset, and the future for our democracy. Kavanaugh is a symptom, not the problem, of our current political climate. So is Trump and the swamp that he promised to drain but is instead manifesting. Regardless of political affiliation, we must hold our representatives, our leaders, and each other accountable.