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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Conflict and Kavanaugh

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.

Steve Bannon, the president’s former senior adviser, framed the narrative in near-Manichean terms: “The fight for Judge Kavanaugh became a proxy fight for Trump’s presidency — the same howling mob intends to stop his agenda if they win in November. That display of the anarchy to come is what has galvanised and united the right, the grassroots and the establishment in a final drive to victory.” So much for Mr Bannon’s antipathy for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Yet a majority of Americans continue to oppose Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Not surprisingly, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat and ranking member of the Senate finance committee saw things very differently from Mr Bannon: “This saga confirmed yet again that we as a society have made little progress toward treating women . . . We can and must do better.” Or maybe not.

If any lesson will be drawn from this latest tussle it is that hyper-partisanship is an almost indelible feature of American politics.

Back in the day, Hamilton Fish, a former New York governor and congressman, served as President Ulysses S Grant’s secretary of state. As the general of the Union army under Lincoln, Grant had defeated the Confederacy.

Decades later, the secretary of state’s great-grandson would return to Congress. There, he represented the same constituents as Mr Faso does today. Hamilton Fish Jr, however, also reached across the aisle, and voted to impeach former president Richard Nixon.

That world is gone. Instead, the embers of the civil war continue to glow red hot.