Heidi Heitkamp Is Trying to Be the Dixie Chicks of Believing Uncorroborated Sexual Assault Accusations


Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) speaks to reporters before a procedural vote to move forward Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 5, 2018. Heitkamp, who is facing a difficult re-election bid this year, voted no, but the Republican majority held, 51-49; the Senate's final vote could come as early as Saturday. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Remember the Dixie Chicks?

They were a hugely popular bluegrass and country music act in the early 2000’s who immolated their careers when, while performing before a foreign audience during the Iraq invasion, they said they were ashamed of President George W. Bush.

The result was backlash from the country music fan base from which the Chicks’ musical career never really recovered.

But they did become icons for the political left, which cast the controversy as a free speech issue. Which it wasn’t.

The problem wasn’t that the Dixie Chicks were anti-War, or anti-Bush, it was that they chose to express their politics in such a crass (by early 2000’s standards) manner. While there was certainly a rational argument to be made against the Iraq war, and the policies of the Bush administration in general, the anti-war movement at the time wasn’t making them.

They were busy calling the President a war criminal and comparing him to Hitler.

Anyway, I was thinking about that scandal this weekend as I watched incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp attempt to explain her vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Trailing in the polls, Heitkamp is now trying to define her vote not as an endorsement of her political party’s campaign and hatred and character assassination aimed at Kavanaugh but rather as an act of a-political courageousness.

(As an aside, when a politician tells you a choice they made wasn’t political, that’s your prompt to commence the mocking.)

The Senator wants to become the Dixie Chicks. She may lose her Senate career, sure, but she’ll live on as a sort of left wing folk hero, complete with all the cushy speaking engagements and job offers from lobbying groups/think tanks that comes with.

This was a carefully choreographed maneuver. Remember that almost immediately after announcing her vote Senator Heitkamp’s campaign dropped a new television ad to explain it.

Consider that for a moment. Somehow, despite telling voters and the press corps for weeks that she was undecided on Kavanaugh, the Senator had a slickly-produced campaign ad featuring herself ready to go the moment she announced her vote.


I’m not the only one who noticed the timing:

This wasn’t courage. This was calculation. Trailing in the polls, Heitkamp decided to launch a hail mary. At worst, she loses re-election and gets to dine out for years to come on her new Dixie Chicks-esque status. At best, maybe a miracle happens and she wins re-election.

Either way, the truth is that the Senator voted to further the goal of one of the most vicious hate campaigns our nation has ever seen in mainstream politics.