Delaware’s Senator Coons and First State Civility
Like many people, not only across the country, but throughout the world, I watched both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and give their testimony. And, like many people, not only across the country, but throughout the world, I have deep, dark thoughts about that day. But this column is not about that.
This column is about one man trying to be bigger than that moment, trying to be about our nation, our ideals, our differences, and in many ways, our civility. This column is about Senator Chris Coons. Our guy.
Senator Coons is the man who chased a friend, not just across an aisle, but down a hallway, into a phone booth, and up and into his conscience to say, “there has to be a way for this to be more fair.”
And the man who listened, Senator Jeff Flake, did so because there was history here. And no, I am not referring to the history being made in the room from which they fled, with its testimony and cameras blazing every which way. I am referring to the history of a senator willing to look for civility, even on issues he does not like.
Civility. Our old friend Merriam Webster defines it as “a: civilized conduct especially: COURTESY, POLITENESS…’bemoaned the decline of civility in our politics’ b: a polite act or expression…’the men briefly exchanged civilities before the meeting began.’”
Here’s how civility works. Earlier this year, Delaware Senator Chris Coons changed his committee vote from “no” to “present” on CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination for Secretary of State, allowing the nomination to advance to the full Senate for consideration—even though Coons opposed him.
This change, from “no” to “present,” did not change the final outcome of the vote. But it did spare his friend and colleague, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, from having to rush back from a close friend’s funeral services in Atlanta. And it did spare other senators from having to wait, possibly until 11 p.m., for his return.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican from Tennessee, was deeply moved when he gave a press conference following Senator Coons’ gesture, where he thanked him for, “displaying the statesmanship that I’ve been accustomed to seeing in the Senate.”
Senator Susan Collins read a forty-minute speech to announce her “yea” vote for Judge Kavanaugh. There are many things one can criticize about the speech, starting with staging two other Republican women behind her. And there are many things one can hate—or love—about her decision.
I respect that she came, she spoke, and she owns her decision. I also appreciate her defense of Dianne Feinstein, going on record that she believes in Dianne Feinstein’s integrity and that she believes Senator Feinstein did not leak Dr. Ford’s letter.
But no matter what I thought of her vote and her speech, she should not face death threats for it. PERIOD. End of subject.
Death threats are happening to her. To her family. To Dr. Ford. To her family.
Instead of outrageous death threats, citizens should be registering to vote left, right, and center! Let Senator Collins be voted out if that’s what the people of Maine want.
By the time you read this, Brett Kavanaugh will have been confirmed. Only time will answer whether he wishes to be a jurist of the highest order, weighing each case with respect and individual attention, and one day leave a legacy spoken about with reverence for all corners, or if he will join the small but memorable rogues gallery of justices who should never have worn those robes.
As for the advise and consent process? We all know there was a lot of screaming on both sides. But where was the civil discourse? Down a narrow hallway tucked inside a phone booth? Is that our best?
We, THE PEOPLE, deserve to have a lifelong appointment vetted. We deserve to believe in our Court. And if someone comes forward at the eleventh hour with a reason this is a bad idea, we deserve representation that says, with civility, “Let’s deal with this because the wrong choice shatters a country, and that is not what our people, and their Supreme Court, deserve.”
We deserve leaders who say please and thank you to each other, don’t indulge in histrionics and snide comments, use a well thought out vocabulary, believe truth and justice matter, and do not mock a woman who came forward with nothing to gain, and everything to lose.
We deserve leaders capable of questioning a woman with enough statesmanship, civility, maybe even respect, that they don’t need a stand-in to do their job.
We deserve leaders who don’t have to live in fear—on both sides of the aisle. It should bother every American, regardless of party, that Senator Jeff Flake, on Sixty Minutes, conceded that if he was not retiring he would not have had the courage to agree with Coons and demand, “a week’s delay to investigate must be acceptable.”
So I thank Senator Coons for working to be that leader. The one we deserve. I would like to think others might join him. Before it truly is too late. ▼
Stefani Deoul is a television producer and author of the award-winning YA mystery On a LARP, with the second in the series, Zero Sum Game, to be published in November.