Senator Heitkamp Heard From Women–and Listened

Heidi Heitkamp is the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for re-election this year. In a state that Trump won by over 35 points in 2016, Real Clear Politics has her trailing her opponent Kevin Cramer by 8.7 percent. That’s why it was big news on Thursday when Heitkamp announced that she would vote “no” on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Almost immediately pundits took to Twitter in an attempt to divine the senator’s political calculations for her decision. But let’s take a look at what she actually said. In her written statement, Heitkemp explained her decision with this:

In addition to the concerns about his past conduct, last Thursday’s hearing called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality. These are critical traits for any nominee to serve on the highest court in our country…

When I listened to Dr. Ford testify, I heard the voices of women I’ve known throughout my life who have similar stories of sexual assault and abuse. Countless North Dakotans and others close to me have since reached out and told me their stories of being raped or sexually assaulted—and expressed the same anguish and fear. I am in awe of their courage, too.

It is clear that Sen. Heitkamp—like almost every woman in this country—has been emotionally affected by the events of the last couple of weeks.

Once again we get a reminder that women all over this country are talking, crying, and sharing their stories with each other and their loved ones. Some of them are even reaching out to senators to tell them their stories. That is the part of Heitkamp’s statement that stood out to me. Even for someone where a decision like this could mean the end of her political career, the reaction to these stories (and perhaps even her own experience) is so strong that it outweighs all other concerns.

On Thursday, this is the group of Republican senators that held a press conference on the Kavanaugh confirmation process:

I’m pretty certain that those guys aren’t being flooded with the kind of stories Sen. Heitkamp has been hearing. And from what we’ve seen, even if that were happening, they wouldn’t really listen. That’s why they are clueless about the shit-storm they’ve stirred up all across this country. Living in a world of privilege will do that to you.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.