“A Pillar of Strength”

Chances are some people were angered by that headline. Meanwhile, others may be empowered. The split on Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been sharp. I’ve heard it at coffee shops, diners, and most pointedly on my radio talk show where yesterday people shared their thoughts. You can listen to part of that discussion here. “A pillar of strength” was a description shared to describe Heidi Heitkamp following her announcement that she would not support Brett Kavanaugh. I share them because I believe they are true.

What Heitkamp did yesterday took political courage. It displayed conviction. She showed strength. No doubt, there are many North Dakotans who don’t like Heitkamp’s decision. It is now on her to explain why to voters. She needs to tell constituents how Kavanaugh’s temperament would impact the Supreme Court in a time the other two branches of government are struggling to move beyond partisanship. The Court needs to be above that. She needs to lay out how her experience as an attorney and chief law enforcement official in North Dakota impacted her conclusion. Heitkamp made a solid opening argument with Kevin Wallevand of WDAY in Fargo.

Some say this decision will surely cost her the midterm election. An example is a message sent to my radio show stating she “signed her resignation papers.” I’m not entirely convinced of that. There is still a block of self-identified conservative voters choosing Heitkamp over Cramer. In their terms shared yesterday, it is due to the fact Heitkamp is an independent thinker. Her decision yesterday solidified that. It has been well documented that Cramer declared he’d be with President Trump “100% of the time.”

Kevin Cramer and local partisan pundits were quick to use the lazy talking point provided in a Republican National Committee email saying that Heitkamp stands “with Chuck Schumer.” They don’t talk about the fact that Heitkamp voted for Neil Gorsuch, a conservative judge appointed by President Trump, and against the vast majority of Senate Democrats including Schumer. They avoid that fact because it shows her independent thought process in making these decisions, not one based on partisan politics nor electoral convenience.

Heidi Heitkamp told voters where she stood knowing the reception that decision might have. She didn’t wait until the votes were being cast to see where the best political decision for reelection would be like some onlookers suggested. She didn’t decide “yes” because she’d “have to” for political reasons as Cramer suggested earlier in the process. People can disagree with Heitkamp’s decision, but they cannot deny her strength.

Tyler Axness