The increase in partisan polarization, likewise, does not reflect a nation in decline. It reflects a nation in crisis because one political party is no longer totally dominated by white men—leading the other political party to more nakedly defend the privileges of white men. When women and people of color were less represented in either party, and white male privileges were thus less threatened, both found it easier to be civil. This isn’t a new story. American politics grew more tranquil after Reconstruction, once both parties agreed that southern blacks should not be permitted to vote.

Reasonable people can question the way Senate Democrats handled Ford’s allegations when she first came forward. But the notion—which is attractive to people in the respectable center—that there was some calm, polite, collegial way to arbitrate her charges is a myth. They could have been buried calmly and politely. But they could not have been arbitrated calmly and politely because Ford’s charges are dangerous. They’re dangerous to conservative hopes of achieving a majority on the Supreme Court and they’re dangerous to the many powerful men whose careers would be ruined were they accountable for their abuse of women. Kavanaugh and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee know that. And they have learned from President Trump that when women or people of color endanger your status, it doesn’t work to play ni