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Commentary: Kavanaugh hearing chaos was the perfect moment for Heitkamp to mean what she says

MINOT, N.D.—By now we're all familiar with the rhythms of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's campaign year messaging.

While her surrogates savage her opponents, she positions herself as a pragmatic moderate who eschews the petty partisan gamesmanship in Washington.

Yet this week Heitkamp had a perfect opportunity, a veritable open window, to blow back some of the miasma of political absurdity which hangs around Washington.

She did nothing.

The chaotic Kavanaugh hearings this week were a national embarrassment, and perhaps a preview of how Congress will govern (or, more accurately, not govern) if Democrats like Heitkamp win their elections and take over majority control.

The histrionics from even mainstraion Democratic figures have been repulsive.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, has said "women will die" if Kavanaugh is seated on the Supreme Court bench. Under her formulation, a vote for Kavanaugh is an act of violence.

Imagine the sort of behavior that rhetoric justifies.

Not that our Democratic friends seem to care.

They have become so convinced of their own righteousness they've literally concluded the ends justify the means.

At one point during the hearings this week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island said, "I do not recognize the legitimacy of this hearing so I don't have to follow the rules."

When the Babylon Bee, a website which publishes comical political articles, ran a headline suggesting that Democrats wanted a DNA test from Kavanaugh to prove he isn't literally Hitler it almost seemed like it could be true. In fact, the fact-checking site Snopes ran their own article on that headline to ensure the public knew it wasn't true.

Just eerily on-point satire.

Right now Heitkamp has a powerful bully pulpit. She is the incumbent in a key U.S. Senate race upon which the balance of power in that legislative chamber rests. What's more, her constituents support Kavanaugh by wide margins according to publicly available polling.

What Heitkamp says can make national headlines in this moment, and given the importance of her race she perhaps has more clout with her Democratic colleagues than at any other time in her career.

Can you imagine the shockwaves it would send across the national political scene if Heitkamp chose to call out her fellow Democrats for their absurd posturing and vicious, ugly rhetoric about Kavanaugh?

Heitkamp could use her current status to change the trajectory of partisan politics in the Trump era.

If Heitkamp believed in her own campaign rhetoric, she would.

She hasn't, so we must conclude that she doesn't.

Proving Heitkamp, far from being the "strong as battery acid" independent she's portrayed as in her campaign messaging, is just another political hack grasping for power. An unscrupulous politician willing to say whatever it takes to win the next election.

Rob Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort and listen on WDAY AM 970.