The feminist philosopher Kate Manne coined the term “himpathy” to describe the “tendency to dismiss the female perspective altogether, to empathize with the powerful man over his less powerful alleged female victim.” What Kavanaugh did today was activate the Republican Party’s powerful sense of himpathy: His suffering was the question, and Ford’s suffering, to say nothing of any further search for the truth, slipped soundlessly beneath the water.
We ended the day in much the same place we started: his word against hers. But even as everyone agreed Ford’s word was credible, it didn’t matter. There was still Kavanaugh’s word. And it appeared, for Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, that that was enough. She was 100 percent sure and he was 100 percent sure, but it was his 100 percent sure that mattered.
On this, Trump was right. What Kavanaugh had needed to do was go on the offensive. He needed to remind the all-male Republican panel that he was the victim here, that any of them could be victims, that moving his nomination forward would be a show of strength, a message sent to the Democrats and their allies, a statement that these tactics end here and they end now. This is how you fight #MeToo: by focusing on the pain it’s causing men, by centering their suffering.
I find some hope in this. There are at least two Republican women who may be less swayed by this sort of a showing. They aren't on the Judiciary committee, but a "yes" vote in committee merely refers it to the wider Senate - and a "no" vote in committee doesn't prevent the Senate from voting (though it might functionally do so, if Republicans already knew they had a defector).
Flake is a bit of a wild card here, but unless he's a "no" - and he's been close-lipped today - Kavanaugh passes committee. The man's not a Democrat, and is inclined to be sympathetic to Kavanaugh. But he's also described this as "a tough one", and clearly has reservations. Ultimately, I can pretty easily see him letting this one through the committee, to be voted on by the Senate proper. Even a "yes" vote by him in committee doesn't guarantee a "yes" vote on the full Senate floor, though it is pretty suggestive. He may just feel like this deserves a full Senate vote.
Flake, Collins, and Murkowski, with maybe a side of Corker. None of them are particularly afraid of the President, and none of them are up for reelection this year. Flake and Corker in particular can make this decision without regard to their political futures, on principle alone. Then again, I can't trust their principles, since both of them also voted for tax reform, and to terminate the ACA. But both of them have grown so disillusioned with their party and their President that they aren't running for office again: I can see a world where they look for a world with a conservative majority on the court, but still say no to this one. Kavanaugh is too tainted not to represent everything they have come to resent about their own party.
Then there's Collins and Murkowski. They voted against the ACA repeal but for tax reform. Like Flake and Corker, they presumably are in favor of a conservative court. I have a hard time imagining that they were not at all moved by Dr. Ford, and likewise suspect they weren't fully sympathetic to Kavanaugh's antics. When they've genuinely felt like something their party was doing would be dangerous to the country, they've opposed it. Neither has come out in favor of #MeToo, exactly, but neither has scorned it, and Murkowski has spoken sympathetically towards women who've experienced harassment.
I don't know how this plays out. But I haven't given up hope. No matter what happens on Friday, it's not over until it's over.