The American people's faith in the sacred institution called democracy is being threatened and Donald Trump is just a symptom of the problem.

It is doubtful that there has been a more poisonous political atmosphere in the United States than the one that currently permeates the body politic.

Fingers will be pointed, as they invariably are, on both sides of the aisle, but neither Republicans or Democrats can claim the higher moral ground in a stand-off that threatens to reduce people’s faith in the sacred institution called democracy.

Democracy is indeed a fragile flower, one that we take so much for granted that we hardly notice our institutions and beliefs which frame the entirety of this country.

Abraham Lincoln fought a vicious Civil War on the basis of governance of the people, by the people and for the people.  In the process, he saved American democracy forever…or so we thought.

But when the institutions are viciously challenged, such as the rule of law, the proper conduct of politics, the correct appointment of judges, the transparency in all things political, then we have a very big problem indeed.

President Trump is a symptom, not the cause, of our current state of play.  Long before he became president the political atmosphere had been poisoned, going all the way back to the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whose 1991 Senate confirmation hearings have gone down in history as the most controversial and unedifying of all.

It seemed like nothing could top the discussion of pornographic films, and actors in them, that Thomas and the Senate Judiciary Committee engaged in. However, the spectacle of Judge Brett Kavanaugh discussing his virginity on national television, as he did Monday night on Fox News, has to come very close indeed.

On the face of it the appointment of Kavanaugh did not appear that controversial, given that he was a distinguished jurist and had the very highest rating from the American Bar Association.

However, this is American politics in the age of #MeToo.  American women rightfully are questioning the appointment of a man whose vote could end Roe v. Wade forever, and whose outlook is clearly negative towards women’s issues. Something funny happened during his confirmation hearings.  Kavanaugh was way too glib in his responses, clever but not revealing anything about his positions.

His lack of honesty ruined any chance whatsoever of a non-partisan vote in his favor, and led to the extraordinary moment when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made her sensational accusation about him.

Since then we have been engaged in a mud-wrestling contest, with each day bringing a new and ridiculous angle we had not previously thought about.

The country is now engaged in the utterly futile exercise of trying to discover the truth behind a he said-she said event that may or may not have happened 36 years ago.   

The current toxic atmosphere on the U.S. Supreme Court began when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell carried out a coup against the choice of President Obama, Judge Merrick Garland, by outright refusing to give him a hearing in 2016.

By so doing, McConnell violated the basic norms of comity and destroyed forever any opportunity for bipartisanship on the issue of the selection of Supreme Court judges.

Sure enough, when Kavanaugh came up the Democrats took his measure and decided he could be defeated.  Whether he will be or not remains to be seen.

But there is no doubt that another blow against democracy and reasoned argument has been struck.  Whether or not Kavanaugh is appointed is almost beside the point.

Read more: Kavanaugh will judge you, but won't be judged himself