2018 midterms

The North Dakota Senate Race Is Becoming a Referendum on #MeToo

This man will probably be a member of “the world’s greatest deliberative body” next year. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

Last month, Republican congressman Kevin Cramer argued that, even if Christine Blasey Ford were telling the truth — and Brett Kavanaugh really had once pinned her to a bed, grinded his hips against her, and tried to remove her bathing suit while muffling her screams of protest with his hand — the judge would have done “nothing” seriously wrong.

“These are teenagers who evidently were drunk, according to her own statement,” the GOP’s nominee for Senate in North Dakota told a local radio news program. “They were drunk. Nothing evidently happened in it all, even by her own accusation. Again, it was supposedly an attempt or something that never went anywhere.”

One week later, Cramer modified this stance, telling an NBC News affiliate that what happened to Ford “should never happen in our society” — but also, that committing one little attempted rape (and then lying about it under oath) shouldn’t prevent a man from ascending to the Supreme Court after “36 years of a record where there’s nothing like that again.”

Now, following Kavanaugh’s confirmation this weekend, Cramer is taking an even bolder stand against Big Sexual-Assault Survivor: In an interview with the New York Times, Cramer suggested that women who identify with the #MeToo movement aren’t as “tough” as his wife and daughters:

North Dakotans, [Cramer] said, appreciate the value “of saying what a lot of other people don’t dare say — but think.”

Asked for an example of what he meant, he ripped into the #MeToo movement.

“That you’re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened,” Mr. Cramer said, alluding to Christine Blasey Ford — who has accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers — and, more broadly, women who have come forward to claim that they were sexually abused or assaulted.

Invoking his wife, daughters, mother and mother-in-law, Mr. Cramer said: “They cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”

Suggesting that the #MeToo movement had created a backlash as the left tried to torpedo Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination, Mr. Cramer added, “The world got to see close up how ugly it can be when you go too far.”

Kevin Cramer currently leads Democratic incumbent Heidi Heitkamp by an average of nearly nine points — a polling advantage that increased markedly over the past two weeks, as the congressman was pushing his “make attempted rape okay again” message.

Nevertheless, Heitkamp persisted in her opposition to Kavanaugh. Despite the perils of defying the president in a state he won by 36 points, the senator declined to vote for the judge’s confirmation — even after it was clear that her vote would make no practical difference either way (which is to say, even after Susan Collins gave a certain other red state Democrat his cue to join the winning team). In a statement explaining her decision, the senator expressed solidarity with sexual assault survivors. And when Heitkamp got wind of Cramer’s latest reflections on #MeToo Sunday, she didn’t mince words. Here’s the Times again:

“The better part of my career in public life has been working with victims,” said Ms. Heitkamp, a former state attorney general. “Did you ask him how many victims during this process he actually sat down with, and survivors he sat down with, and visited with personally?”

Then Ms. Heitkamp’s voice grew thick with emotion.

“I think it’s wonderful that his wife has never had an experience, and good for her, and it’s wonderful his mom hasn’t,” she said. “My mom did. And I think it affected my mom her whole life. And it didn’t make her less strong.”

With tears welling in her eyes, Ms. Heitkamp stared intently at a reporter and continued:

“And I want you to put this in there, it did not make my mom less strong that she was a victim. She got stronger and she made us strong. And to suggest that this movement doesn’t make women strong and stronger is really unfortunate.”

Ms. Heitkamp’s mother, Doreen, died in April at 88 on what would have been her 66th wedding anniversary. The senator said her mother was sexually assaulted as a teenager.

Alas, in North Dakota, indignation on behalf of sexual assault survivors doesn’t play as well as unflinching loyalty to Donald J. Trump. The Roughrider State is much whiter, and a bit less college-educated, than America as a whole — and 59 percent of white voters without college diplomas found Kavanaugh more credible than Ford, according to a Quinnipiac poll released last week.

But, for her part, Heidi Heitkamp would rather lose a referendum on #MeToo than remain strategically neutral on the question of whether the women who make up that movement are “tough.”

The North Dakota Senate Race Is Now a Referendum on #MeToo