If you had to select a point in time or an event that was the tipping point in the trend toward incivility and almost terminal dysfunction in our nation’s capital, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 would be a good candidate. It was so vicious that it coined a new term–to “bork” means to resort to a slanderous smear campaign to discredit and defeat a political foe or proposal, and the Democrats, led by Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, aided and abetted by their fellow travelers in journalism. went viral in their lies and distortions of his record and his judicial philosophy. It was, as now acknowledged by even many partisan liberals, a disgraceful episode in American public life. Policy deliberation in Washington, in particular the Senate advise and consent process, has never been the same.
Robert Bork was a huge figure as a teacher and a scholar and, as the Wall Street Journal noted, contributed far more to American law than the 58 Senators who voted against his confirmation and more than most Supreme Court justices. One of his books, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, is an outstanding survey of what significant damage has been done to the country by the ideological triumph of liberalism among American elites. His service on the Supreme Court would have been greatly beneficial to our country. Shame on those whose disservice to America deprived us of that benefit and, even worse, greatly contributed to the trend toward incivility in public life.