We are all Christine Ford. Or Brett Kavanaugh.

As the hours of dramatic and wrenching testimony continued to unfold on Thursday afternoon, Americans watched. More than watched, they imagined themselves in either role. From a male friend, texting from his investment bank desk: “Every guy at work right now sees Brett Kavanaugh in them. I’ve never seen the floor so uncomfortable.” From a female colleague, over social media: “Ford’s deep breaths — that attempt to keep her composure — are so familiar.” From a weeping C-Span caller: “I had not brought up [my own assault] for years until I heard this testimony, and it is breaking my heart.” And from an incensed senator, fuming from a front-row seat: “This is hell.”

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As we wait for a final vote, the story will continue to expand beyond the bounds of its two central characters. And it’s right that it should. Kavanaugh’s confirmation, or lack thereof, is no longer just about his character and his reputation. Ford’s testimony will have consequences — and not just for the approval rating of the Senate, or even the legitimacy of the highest court in the land.

Because, for most of American history we have been asked — or ordered — to sympathize with the Kavanaughs of the world, and to see our country through their eyes. But in the weeks to come, it’s the Fords to whom we owe our attention and our concern.

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