ANALYSIS: Kavanaugh confirmation marks triumph of tribalism

The Senate’s confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh this weekend means the swing seat on the Supreme Court has been filled by someone about whom Americans are sharply divided. He comes to the seat after the most divisive of processes, with virtually all institutions of government suffering a measure of potential damage.

At nearly every turn of the long and unusual fight, partisan actions worsened the natural expected divisions. The Senate process revealed itself as broken. Kavanaugh’s defense of himself was partisan beyond any precedent for a Supreme Court nominee.

And President Donald Trump – in perhaps the least surprising part of the drama – used it all to sharpen political wedges.

Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the searing and emotional three-week span since Christine Blasey Ford came forward was the way that political allegiances seemed to overwhelm any search for facts. Polls showed that party affiliation – more than gender, age, or other variables – were the most predictive factor in whether voters believed Ford or Kavanaugh.

In the end, the Senate delivered on the country’s divisions almost as cleanly as possible, with only a single Democrat and a single Republican voting with colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Trump treated the lone GOP defection as an affront that he quickly predicted would cost Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, her career.

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