How Can Heitkamp’s Vote Against Kavanaugh Be Both Politically Risky and the Right Vote for North Dakota?


Signs outside of Rutland, N.D., Oct. 7, 2018. In North Dakota and other farm states, the partisan divide over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has nationalized the fight for the Senate, elating Republicans and worrying Democrats. (Annie Flanagan/The New York Times)

There’s no question that the debate over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court has put Senator Heidi Heitkamp in some hot political water. As I wrote in my Sunday print column, it was tanking her re-election chances even before the Senator announced she’d be voting against his confirmation.

So it’s no surprise that Heitkamp has been scrambling to defend her vote against Kavanaugh. But the logic behind her argument seems flawed.

Case in point, this tweet the Senator sent out earlier today:

This is Heitkamp’s defense of her vote in a nutshell. We are to give the Senator credit for bravely making the right vote even though, as the candidate herself freely concedes, that vote was politically risky.

But how are we defining what is and is not the “right” vote in this context?

Many in North Dakota, and across the nation, voted for President Trump specifically so that he would be in a position to nominate people like Brett Kavanaugh to the federal bench. What’s more, multiple public opinion polls (including those conducted after Democrats began hyping the uncorroborated accusations of sexual misconduct against him) show a strong majority of North Dakotans wanting Kavanaugh confirmed.

North Dakotans clearly feel that Kavanaugh has the judicial philosophy they want, and they don’t feel the accusations against him have been substantiated.

So what Heitkamp is telling us with this argument is that her vote against the wishes of a majority of North Dakotan was the right vote for North Dakota.

I’m not a populist. I don’t think the majority is always right. Very often the public wants things that are bad. But in this specific instance, it’s hard to buy Heitkamp’s argument that she’s doing what’s best for North Dakotans by ignoring their clearly expressed will on this judicial appointment.