The question is no longer whether Republicans have lost the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. It’s how.
The answer is that they lost by allowing Christine Blasey Ford to speak. Yes, they didn’t subpoena Mark Judge; yes, they didn’t request an FBI investigation, as they should have done. But ultimately, it didn’t matter, because they made a far greater concession: They allowed Ford to show herself to be a human being. And once her humanity came through—once her sincerity and her agony became impossible for any decent person to deny—it was all over.
President Trump, I suspect, understands that. He understands it because he understands the power of dehumanization. For more than two years he has worked relentlessly to make his adversaries appear less than human. He gives his opponents demeaning nicknames. He calls undocumented immigrants “aliens.” He calls women “dogs.” One of the terms he most often deploys to describe his opponents is “animals.”
At rare moments over the last two years, representatives of the people Trump dehumanizes have asserted their humanity and put him on the defensive. The clearest moment prior to Ford’s testimony was Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. But far fewer people saw Khan’s speech than will have seen Ford’s testimony. Khan spoke at a partisan event. And ultimately, the power of his own humanity, and his family’s, was lost amidst the partisan nonsense that returned to dominate the campaign.