It feels as though the hearings to determine Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court dragged on for an agonizing eternity—and yet, somehow, it also seems as though he’s already several months into his lifetime appointment.
Between the delivery of Kavanaugh’s testimony and that of his accuser, Professor Christine Blasey Ford, over the last several weeks, think pieces have been churned out at record speeds and in such high quantities that a generous chunk of them had to have gone stale before their editors had a chance to hit “publish.” Of course, with the influx of op-eds on not only Kavanaugh’s inevitable confirmation, but also, on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s modes of conducting the hearings, authors were nonetheless tasked with keeping their takes at least mildly fresh.
One essay in particular published by Vox in late September, for example, analyzed how the Senate has evolved in terms of gender between parties since the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas hearings took place in the 1990s. While informative—twenty-three women currently serve on Congress, seventeen of them Democrats—and thus illustrating the author’s point—that Democrats take sexual violence seriously while Republicans do not—the author obfuscates their entire (seemingly) well-intentioned point by concluding with this brief paragraph:
Those who claim there’s not much difference between the parties would have a hard time finding evidence for that claim while watching the Senate Judiciary Committee over the past few days. And it’s worth noting how they got to be that way.
I feel that, at the behest of all the madness that has been going on in the world lately, I’ve been wearing this observation out, but I really don’t care, so here it is again: talk about a bad faith reading.
I understand that tensions are high. I mean, the Supreme Court just took on a pretty decisively conservative slant. Moreover, the further on we plow, the easier it becomes to know what is going on everywhere in the world and at all times. But I’m not sure how that warrants a condescending admonition of those who are critical of Senate Democrats—particularly since the criticism that there is no fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats is often undergirded by the belief that establishment politicians from either party are plutocrats who, due to their exorbitant wealth and power, couldn’t represent their constituents less if they tried.
As I wrote in an article for Wear Your Voice in December, I voted for Clinton in the 2016 election, and it was not a decision I came to easily. Although I’d prepared a ballot measure cheat sheet, up until it came time for me to cast my vote for the president, I was torn. And I am by no means saying that I am glad Trump won. However, over the course of the last two years since he’s taken office, I’ve questioned exactly what I voted for when I cast my ballot with Hillary Clinton’s name marked. Again, I’m not glad Trump was elected. But despite having voting for her, I can’t say I wish Clinton had been, either.
For starters, she ardently favors military interventionism and has, throughout her political career, advocated for the violent attacks of other countries such as Syria, as well as for the continued occupation of Iraq. For most of her political career, she opposed the federal legality of gay marriage. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, she lauded his war on drugs as successful. Today, of course, it has contributed to the U.S.’s mass incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom who are Black and/or Latinx.
Like Clinton, Joe Biden favors military interventionism, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. (In case you were wondering how all that has been working out, check out some of the recent news stories in Iraq: in the span of a few months, thousands of civilians in Basra have become ill from heat exhaustion and contaminated water, and over the last few weeks, several women have been anonymously assassinated throughout the country.) Biden is also a self-proclaimed Zionist and considers Israel a valuable ally due to their proximity to the rest of West Asia. I could go on, but we’ll move along instead.
Chris Murphy, Democratic Senator of Connecticut, is perhaps most well-known nationally as an outspoken advocate for gun-control, particularly after the shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in his home state in 2012. Unlike Clinton and Biden, Murphy has less of a thirst for U.S. military interventionism, even going so far as to criticize the U.S. for being complicit in Yemen’s ongoing famine. And, like a perfectly non-amoral human being, he previously supported the closure of our country’s oft-forgotten extra-judicial, offshore brown people-only torture camp: Guantánamo Bay. However, in 2011, Murphy also voted for the extension of the Patriot Act.
All three Democrats, like most—if not all Senate Democrats in 2018—are on the “right” sides of things: they are pro-choice; they favor the Affordable Care Act; they believe immigration is a family issue and that the U.S. prison system requires reform. These “right” sides are in contrast with the positions taken by Republicans, who, by gaining political power, stoke public fears that they will reverse Roe v. Wade, rescind the ACA, and make the U.S.’s relationships with immigration and carceral punishment more nightmarish than they already are.
Just based on the above few examples, then, yes, it is pretty fucking obvious that Democrats are different from Republicans. And before any readers who belong in the Vox author’s school of thought chime in, yes, it is also astonishingly obvious that Democrats are better than Republicans—unless you’re poor, queer, and/or of color or live almost anywhere in the Global South, and no, these are not insignificant facts.
When we—you (if you’re a person the establishment Democrats don’t mind), me (they don’t mind me too much, though I’m not thrilled at the prospect of never being able to visit my home country given the number they’ve done on it), and the person who wrote the Vox article—haven’t been targeted by establishment Democratic policies, it makes sense that we have trouble understanding why those who have would not see much distinction between Democrats and Republicans and the ways each functions.
However, rather than dismissing folks who assess that functionally, there isn’t much difference between Democrats and Republicans, perhaps take a second, do a quick google search, and allow yourself to understand why that is the case. Bear in mind: this lack of difference is not just a feeling; it is a reality. Perhaps the greatest threat you feel as a cis-het white woman, for example, is witnessing the election of an official who spews misogynistic rhetoric. And while that is horrible and undoubtedly should not be tolerated without a fight, for others, there may be additional, if nonnegotiable, stakes to consider.
So, yes, it was made clear in the weeks leading up to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and in many politically divisive moments before it: Democrats and Republicans are, in many ways, different. Perhaps the issue, then, for both voters and non since long before the 2016 election, is not the ways in which they are different, but rather, the destructive, militaristic ways in which they are alike.