A bitter battle won, yet war continues

Mostafa Waly
Friday 12 Oct 2018

While the Cavanaugh controversy will not likely recede, attention will now turn to Congress, where key elections will reveal Trump’s true impact on America

Finally, Judge Brett Cavanaugh is sworn in as a US Supreme Court Justice. His nomination and confirmation will be the talk of all America for a long time to come.

It will be remembered as a turning point in America’s political partisanship, revealed in its deeply rooted divide and harshness, thanks to the media, democracy and Donald Trump.

That confirmation, going through the most spectacular political chaos, allegations of sexual assaults, teenage recklessness, the temperament of the judge, and many other issues, but not directly around the main issue — the president himself and only him.

Of course, a Justice at the Supreme Court, in “America’s Second Civil War” as Thomas Friedman’s latest worrying article in The New York Times put it, means a decisive vote in domestic and even international social, economic and political arenas.

The saga of the confirmation procedure was, typically, of the unique American way of winning hearts and minds, but with one crucial difference this time: the real gravity of what was at stake.

It was real and dangerous, since either party’s loss was a must, at all costs, and will be taken as a defeat in battle in America’s “Second Civil War”, not just losing a political dispute over confirming a Justice to the Supreme Court.

Although there was a case of disputed confirmation of a Justice in the early 1990s, the case of Justice Cavanaugh will be always remembered as Trump’s nominee — a scapegoat in one of the fierce battles of the war on Trump.

However, the decisive confrontation will come in around four weeks’ time, in mid-term Congressional elections.

If the Democratic Party loses its majority in the Senate, that will be a heavy blow. Much worse will be a loss of the House majority too.

An important phenomenon started to display itself on the political stage of America and likely internationally, stemming from Trump’s world-view.

Despite that globalisation, world trade agreements, and human rights became fundamental paradigms in the post-Cold War era, Trump stands against them openly.

He is putting “America First” when it comes to such said paradigms, or any other political or economic terminology.

He managed, so far, to fulfill some of the promises made during his presidential campaign. He keeps reminding the American people and the world that he is delivering on all the controversial issues, ranging from domestic tax cuts to US withdrawal from the Iran deal and NAFTA.

Facts and figures on the ground support — to an amazing extent — his stances, bolstering his position vis-à-vis the constituency of Republicans in Congress, with the far right, and in face of bewildered allies and global powers like China.

He wants to put into action his motto, America First, in contrast to the “Yes, we can!” mantra that dazzled the American people and kept a Democratic president in the Oval Office for two terms.

So, against the odds and in face of the mighty media, he is going all the way to make a new chapter in America’s political history — one which a renowned and entrenched American intelligentsia warn against as a “Second Civil War”.

The American people watched the saga of Justice Cavanaugh in real time. “Disgraceful” at times, and “absurd” at others, from the Cavanaugh confirmation events the president emerged victorious. Nonetheless, it was just one battle in an ongoing war.

For now, the parties will turn to “the most important elections” in their political history, according to statements of the leaders of both. Not a presidential election, but a proxy of one.

The outcome of the elections will be a “second” vote on the president, and the phenomenon he represents in American politics.

Trump’s emotional warning to his cheering crowds that only the slightest margin confirmed Justice Cavanaugh must be quite alarming to his plans. Indeed, he has cause to worry.

Finally, what is unfolding in America really matters for the world at large. Building a wall at America’s borders, withdrawing from international agreements over the future of the Earth, shaking established UN organisations, establishing what is called a “Space Force”, intimidating allies, and other issues of this sort, depend on a considerable majority of lawmakers and judicial powers being pro-Trump.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 11 October, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: A bitter battle won, yet war continues 

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