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Wounds Of Kavanaugh Fight Will Linger


Brett Kavanaugh is now an associate justice of the Supreme Court. The Kavanaugh confirmation fight is now over. But as NPR's Scott Detrow reports from Capitol Hill, it will likely linger over Congress and American politics for a very long time.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: As senators stood at their desks and formally voted on Kavanaugh, and Vice President Mike Pence presided, protester after protester stood up and yelled raw and visceral messages.




UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Shame, shame, shame. (Unintelligible).

MIKE PENCE: Clerk will suspend.

DETROW: The scene summed up the Kavanaugh confirmation - a Senate taking on one of its most important and historic responsibilities running smack into hyperpartisanship, as well as a cultural reckoning with sexual assault. Before the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sounded like they were in agreement.


CHUCK SCHUMER: The road that led us here has been bitter, angry and partisan.

MITCH MCCONNELL: A vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh today is a vote to end this brief, dark chapter in the Senate's history.

DETROW: Both parties leave the confirmation fight outraged and aggrieved but for very different reasons. Republicans saw character assassination - old, unproven allegations designed to destroy Kavanaugh's reputation. Lindsey Graham's diatribe during the hearing on Christine Blasey Ford's allegations summed this up best.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: I would never do to them what you've done to this guy. This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics.

DETROW: Democrats, like New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, saw Ford's claim Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school as the culmination of the year-old #MeToo movement - a referendum on whether women are believed when they report harassment or assault.


KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: If we allow women's experiences of sexual trauma to be second to a man's promotion, it will not only diminish this watershed moment of societal change we are in. It will bring shame on this body and on the court.

DETROW: But in the end, Republican after Republican concluded what Nebraska's Deb Fischer did.


DEB FISCHER: I appreciate Professor Ford's sincere testimony. I believe she has experienced a traumatic event that no woman should have to endure. There is no evidence, though, that Judge Kavanaugh was the perpetrator.

DETROW: The Senate checked off a lot of other legislative business as the confirmation fight played out and even passed some sweeping bipartisan governing bills. But while they differ on the root cause of what became a toxic confirmation fight, lawmakers from both parties are worried about its lasting damage. Republican Lisa Murkowski spoke to that as she explained why she was the lone Republican opposing Kavanaugh.


LISA MURKOWSKI: As a legislative branch, we have an obligation - a moral obligation - to do better than this.

DETROW: Right now both parties are seething with anger. Just before the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh, Schumer urged Democrats to channel that outrage into next month's election.


SCHUMER: Vote. If you believe Dr. Ford and other brave women who came forward and you want to vindicate their sacrifice, vote.

DETROW: Republicans are seeing a boost, too. McConnell told The Washington Post the whole thing was a great political gift, thanking what he called the mob going after Kavanaugh for energizing Republicans for the first time this cycle. There's about a month left to Election Day. The big question now is which party's voters will still be angry about the confirmation when they're casting ballots. Scott Detrow, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
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