Immediately after President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, there was concern among progressives that Senate Democrats had no plan for stopping his confirmation. Democrats had barely laid a glove on Neil Gorsuch in 2017, and it wasn’t clear they were better prepared for a new Supreme Court fight.
Adding to the impression of disorder was a shifting public line: First, Democrats assailed Kavanaugh directly. Then they hung back. Senator Dick Durbin described the Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s strategy to Politico: “All Chuck ever says in caucus, it’s pretty well known: ‘Keep your powder dry. Don’t commit. Stay as neutral as you can, as long as you can.’ It gives him some room to maneuver.” Then, Democrats began meeting with Kavanaugh, having delayed one-on-ones. By the time Kavanaugh’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee had concluded in early September, there was still no sign Democrats had landed a punch.
Then everything changed. On September 12, The Intercept reported that Dianne Feinstein had a letter that “describes an incident involving Kavanaugh and a woman while they were in high school.” Two days later, The New Yorker reported that Senate Democrats were investigating an allegation of sexual assault by a woman who knew Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. Two days later, the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, went on the record with The Washington Post. The rest of the story is familiar: more allegations against Kavanaugh, a new hearing where Ford and Kavanaugh spoke, the reopening of the FBI investigation.