Our warring tribes are in meltdown, and it’s hard to see how this ends.
The issue is one that has roiled women for centuries, and the rest of the nation like never before — sexual assault.
Specifically, the accusation by college professor Christine Blasey Ford that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when both were teenagers in the 1980s.
The fight that has ensued is partly between red and blue, but more elementally between women and men. And it’s raw.
It’s also depressing — to see how little some of us have learned. That because you want sex doesn’t mean someone else has to give it. That alcohol use is not an excuse. That boys will be boys gives no agency to girls. That men seek to put these episodes behind them, but women feel the repercussions for years. That this is always about power, not sex.
There have been enough chances for men to learn. But it didn’t happen after Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby or Matt Lauer or Roger Ailes.
Could this be the exorcism?
Whether Kavanaugh assaulted Ford is one issue. The reaction by other men, especially Kavanaugh’s friends and most Senate Republicans, is another. What women hear is a group of men launching a second attack on a woman.
President Donald Trump tweeted that Ford or “her loving parents” would have immediately filed charges if the attack “was as bad as she says” — and women heard the same lies and ignorance about male dominance and their place in society and how so many of them could not ever go to police or their own parents to say what had happened because it was always their fault and they always put themselves in that situation.
A parade of men said, well, even if the attack did happen, should that one blemish be allowed to harm Kavanaugh, should the entirety of his life be judged by this one event — and women heard no expression of regret or empathy for the harm this one event had done to Ford over the entirety of her life since then.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, running against Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, said such accusations could prevent “good people” from seeking office — and women heard their trauma created by men dismissed as an inconvenient impediment to a man’s rise to power.
Sen. Orrin Hatch said Ford was “mixed up” and confusing Kavanaugh for someone else — and women heard a man of power automatically take the word of another man of power, reducing it to a he-said, she-said stalemate.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate is “going to plow right though it” — and women heard the utter disregard for whatever Ford has to say and the contemptuous dismissal of a woman.
And what have we heard from women? Anguished stories, told over and over, like the one from Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan, saying, yes, this happened to them, too. And, no, they couldn’t say anything about it. And, yes, the blocking by Kavanaugh’s team has been despicable.
Sen. Susan Collins, who has been walking an awkward tightrope, said she was “appalled” by Trump’s tweet. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is waiting to hear from Ford. They’re the two most moderate of the Senate’s five GOP women. Their reactions say something.
This is visceral. This is a gut punch. This is a laser to a voter’s mind. This is something you run on, and cast a ballot on. This isn’t a debate over NAFTA or taxes, and it’s no longer a conversation about Kavanaugh’s view on executive power. It’s the continuing inability of some men to see sexual violence from a woman’s point of view, from a humane point of view.
An up-or-down vote on Kavanaugh won’t end this. We’re too far gone for that now.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.