The paradox of Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings is how little and how much change they wrought.
How little, because there was no indication that the testimony from Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh had affected the course of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. How much, because the civic wounds of Thursday’s hearing seem likely to endure for years, if they ever heal.
The chances of confirmation remain as unclear as they were at 10 a.m. Thursday, with a close final vote expected early next week. Republicans said after a caucus meeting Thursday that the committee would hold votes on Friday and the full Senate would begin voting on Saturday—sticking with the tentative plan before the hearings, and either a sign of confidence or a bluff of confidence. No senators said they had changed their vote based on the day’s testimony, including the presumptive swing votes—Republicans Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake—and Democrat Joe Manchin.
But the hearings were a bigger moment than the mere stakes of a Supreme Court seat—as important as that is. It’s hard to take in the scope of what happened: Ford reliving, in agonizing detail, a traumatic attack from 36 years ago, in front of not just 21 senators but much of the nation, watching on TVs and computers and phones; her quiet and obliging but assured demeanor; Kavanaugh’s furious tirade of an opening statement, blasting the Senate and Democrats in starkly partisan terms; his sniping back at senators, demanding that Amy Klobuchar answer the question she’d asked him; and Lindsey Graham’s irate broadside at his Democratic colleagues.