Now that Justice Brett Kavanaugh is sitting on the Supreme Court, a few thoughts about the bitter nomination battle that consumed the country over the past few weeks:

Oct 10, 2018 by

This was the first big fight of the Trump Era that wasn’t really about President Trump – and during which Mr. Trump actually seemed to recede a bit from the spotlight. And it was a reminder that, contrary to the reams of news coverage painting the president as a transformative figure (for better or worse), the real force driving our politics today is tribalism.

In a trenchant piece in The Atlantic, conservative David French writes that the Kavanaugh debate “illustrated the fundamentally different ways in which conservatives and progressives view the world, and it unlocked not just an intellectual response but an emotional response that has radicalized otherwise reasonable and temperamentally moderate individuals into believing that the other side hates even the good people in their own tribe.”

Indeed, the Kavanaugh debate appears to have brought some Republican Trump critics back into the fold. Polls show enthusiasm among GOP voters has gotten a jolt, improving the party’s prospects of holding onto the Senate (though outrage on the other side, particularly among suburban women and independents, may increase the likelihood of a Democratic takeover of the House).

One way to view the tribal divisions in this country is as a reaction to change.

The United States is in a period of rapid social and cultural transformation. The nation is projected to be majority minority within a few decades. The #MeToo movement is shifting perceptions around sexual abuse and upending traditional gender hierarchies. Globalism and technology are disrupting the workplace, creating new opportunities for some and seeming to eliminate them for others.

One political party appears eager to accelerate these changes – while the other party wants to apply the brakes.

“There is a split culturally, spiritually and socially,” Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana told the Washington Post after the Senate voted along virtual party lines to confirm Mr. Kavanaugh. “It has to do with the pace of change more than anything else.”

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Liz Marlantes, Politics Editor

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