10/11/2018

Tribal Warfare Isn’t All Bad

J.J McCullough, National Review

At this point, commentary on the Kavanaugh affair has spanned an almost impossibly diverse array of topics, including yearbook slang, the science of memory, 1980s teen movies, and the perils of accidentally buzz-marketing Coca-Cola. An alien civilization possessed of nothing else could use the last few weeks as a Rosetta Stone to reconstruct the entirety of American civilization from scratch, given how much culture the press has managed to cram into every moment.

The majority of Kavanaugh commentary, however, has existed to reinforce the “tribal warfare” narrative of modern American politics.

The thesis goes something like this: The United States has become thoroughly captured by an irresolvable cultural conflict pitting a furious right-wing faction against an equally inflamed counterpart on the left. These two sides use the institutions of American governance as battlefields in their quest to impose total ideological hegemony over the nation. Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court thus triggered predictably acrimony from the left because it gave the Court a conservative majority, thereby empowering the right-wing tribe to modify American law in bluntly triumphalist ways — outlawing abortion, say. Such unapologetic mercenary tactics are held to be the root cause of the off-putting character of American politics at the moment, and the reason why all the “good people” will soon be repulsed out of participation.

The Kavanaugh saga was certainly not anyone’s shining hour. The sexual-harassment charges leveled against the man triggered a frantic swirl of cynicism, opportunism, and fearmongering that left few looking their best and did, in fact, expose our tactics of political warfare at their most untamed.

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