Most of us with any home training wince when we reflect on the kinds of things Donald Trump has said about women, immigrants, the FBI–about anybody who isn’t Donald Trump, or a current Trump sycophant. Part of the reason some people believe that he is unfit to serve as president lies in his inability to filter out vulgar or impolitic statements and tweets.
So, by disrupting Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearings yesterday, Democrats lost some of the moral high ground they had claimed when it comes to Trump’s lack of well-heeled rhetoric or behavior. Traditionally, nominees to the court bring family members to savor the upside of the nomination before the hearings turn into partisan grillings. Laudatory statements get read. Backs get slapped. The family members leave with proud smiles on their faces.
Yesterday, protestors who embrace progressive causes became so obstreperous that Kavanaugh’s wife and children left. Democrats on the judiciary committee repeatedly interrupted opening statements to ask that the hearing itself be delayed. I may be sympathetic to some of their causes–certainly not all of them!–but I object to their methods. Their behavior yesterday amounts to making rude, symbolic gestures–the equivalent of a “screw you” checkmate in chess, made only to delay an inevitable loss. They do not have the votes to delay the hearings or derail the nomination; those votes will fall on party lines. Furthermore, trying to shout down opponents is hardly the way to win converts. In fact, it’s simply more likely to make compromise (and effective governance) between the parties less tenable.
The seeds of this discontent were planted long ago. Look back at the Bork and Thomas confirmations if you wish–or, more recently, think about the way Republicans refused even to consider an Obama nominee at the end of his presidency. Regardless, the leaders of both parties must express more concern for governance than grandstanding. If Hamilton could bring Jefferson and Madison into the room where the sausage got made and the plans got laid, then today’s leaders ought to be able to do the same.