Tony Gardner, a 60-year-old retired pipe fitter from Robbinsdale, Minn., flipped on Fox News on Thursday to watch Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh indignantly defend himself against an accusation of sexual assault from decades ago. If anything, Mr. Gardner said, Judge Kavanaugh was “too timid” in trying to refute the claims and fight back against senators examining his fitness for the Supreme Court.
“He’s probably perfect for the job, but the questions they’re asking are the wrong ones,” said Mr. Gardner, a supporter of President Trump. “How will he judge? Not, did he feel up a woman when he was 18? I don’t know any guy who didn’t feel up a woman when he was 18.” (Judge Kavanaugh was accused of forcing himself on Christine Blasey Ford when they were teenagers.)
For many conservatives, especially white men who share Mr. Trump’s contempt for the left and his use of divisive remarks, the clash over Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation has become a rallying cry against a liberal order that, they argue, is hostile to their individual rights, political power and social status. Judge Kavanaugh’s claim that Democrats wielded the sexual assault allegation to try to sink his nomination has been fiercely disputed on the left, but resonated among conservatives suspicious that the real agenda is to hurt the president.
Judge Kavanaugh’s furious denials of the allegation and his tirade before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday also underscore how Mr. Trump’s own angry rhetorical defenses of himself — including his insistent dismissals and demeaning insults in response to sexual misconduct accusations against him — have become such an effective playbook with the Republican base. Republican politicians now regularly portray critics, Democrats, the news media and even people making allegations of sexual misconduct as liars or fakes, and strike aggrieved tones as they present themselves as victims of conspiracies or leftist cabals.
In his 2016 campaign and in his presidency, Mr. Trump has frequently stoked a belief among conservatives that both he and they are targets of a political double standard that punishes them for what they say and believe — even as they control the White House, both chambers of Congress and most statehouses. But the strategy has paid off: According to 2016 exit polls, 62 percent of white men voted for Mr. Trump, and they remain a solid part of his base.
Judge Kavanaugh himself — who insisted before the Senate that he had earned his success by “busting my tail”— has now taken a page from Mr. Trump, who often boasts about his intelligence and how he attended the best schools. Like the president, Judge Kavanaugh has become an avatar for the resentments of Americans like those who saw Mr. Trump’s election as a restoration of power they felt they had lost and a blow against elites they felt had devalued them.
In fact, few Americans qualify as more privileged and elite than Judge Kavanaugh, a prep school graduate with two Yale degrees who is on the brink of ascending to one of the most powerful positions in the country. And the notion that they are victims of attack is in sharp contrast to what many across the political spectrum saw at the Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday: a woman, Dr. Blasey, reluctantly coming forward to reveal one of the most painful moments in her life.
Many women, and plenty of men, are now infuriated that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is still alive and will likely to come to a vote. And at the same time, the double-barreled eruptions in the Senate in recent days — one from the nominee himself and another from Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina — have touched a deep nerve inside conservative America.
“I know I am a single white male from South Carolina. And I am told I should shut up,” Mr. Graham said on Friday as he addressed his colleagues, plunging directly into the caldron of race, class and gender that has washed over the Kavanaugh nomination.
Mr. Graham was referring to the extraordinary fusillade he directed at his Democratic colleagues a day earlier, accusing them of trying to execute a “sham” power grab to leave vacant the seat Judge Kavanaugh was nominated to fill.
“The most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics,” the senator said.
The speech has turned Mr. Graham into a heroic figure on the right, where he has often been seen as untrustworthy and opportunistic. Echoing what many conservatives have said about the senator in recent days, Cleta Mitchell, a former Republican state legislator and conservative activist, said the senator had “sealed his place in history for reclaiming the microphone and saying what so many millions of us have been thinking.”
“God bless him,” she added.
For his part, Judge Kavanaugh hurled conspiratorial accusations at Democrats, charging them with exacting “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” and evoking images of the country on a precipice. He flashed contempt as he turned a question about alcoholic blackouts back on Senator Amy Klobuchar, asking the Minnesota Democrat if she had experienced any herself. Anger coursed through his recital of his pedigree — captain of the football team, his admission to the top law school in the country.
“I was No. 1 in the class,” he said. “No, no, I’m going to talk about my high school record if you’re going to sit here and mock me.” He even talked of his fondness for beer.
It was a striking contrast with Judge Kavanaugh’s more restrained and halting interview on Fox News days earlier, one that Mr. Trump had privately criticized as weak. And his display of indignation helped change the dynamic in the hearing room after a morning when Republican senators were unable to dent the credibility of his accuser, Dr. Blasey.
After watching Judge Kavanaugh on Thursday, the president told friends and staff that he was pleased the judge fought back so hard, according to one person who spoke with him. “They’re destroying this guy and his family,” said Mr. Trump, according to this person, who spoke anonymously to divulge private conversations.
Mr. Trump has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, and won the presidency after branding many of these women as liars and painting himself as a victim of unfair attacks — even though he was captured on tape talking about forcing himself on women and using vulgar language about them.
Now it’s others who are sounding Trump-like notes of aggrievement: Mr. Graham, a one-time critic of the president who has now became an ally; and Judge Kavanaugh, whose irate, at times contemptuous, performance at the hearing was like nothing Washington has seen since Clarence Thomas’ confirmation 27 years ago. Their words were all the more welcome to conservatives’ ears because they were defiant, even belligerent — the kind of hold-nothing-back aggression against Democrats that Mr. Trump uses to rouse his base of voters.
With these twin outpourings of rage from two men, conservatives said they felt they had struck blows against a variety of foes — theirs and Mr. Trump’s. Republicans said that Judge Kavanaugh and Mr. Graham seemed to be taking aim at the “resistance” to the president, political correctness, the liberal media and the politics of personal destruction — even though Democrats say Mr. Trump is a master of the insult himself.
In some ways, Republicans are taking another page from Mr. Trump’s playbook by reframing an adversarial issue. They have tried to criticize the #MeToo movement as one that should take male victims into account as well, reflecting the concerns of some women that their own sons could be falsely accused of sexual assault.
“I just felt like what was said needed to be said,” said Ann Breuton, 64, a retired medical transcriptionist from Greenville, S. C., who on Friday afternoon was listening to Rush Limbaugh and following the latest developments in the Kavanaugh nomination.
“This is going to hurt women down the road,” she added. “Who’s going to take anyone seriously? I have two sons and a daughter — it bothers me.”
Ms. Breuton said that Judge Kavanaugh had every right to be angry, forced to listen to what she called sordid details and defend his reputation.
And it was Judge Kavanaugh’s tears and struggle for composure, as well as his anger, that hit home for some of the men who heard him. On Twitter, he was mocked by some liberals for crying. But inside the Washington office of a conservative lobbying firm, men who were rooting for the judge teared up as they listened to him describe how his 10-year-old daughter had asked that the family “pray for the woman” — meaning Dr. Blasey.
To Mr. Gardner, the entire hearing was a farce, another charade by Democrats determined to ruin the president and his candidate.
“This is not about judgeship,” he said. “This is about Donald Trump getting in one of his guys.”
Jeremy W. Peters reported from Washington and Susan Chira from Bangor, Me. Christina Capecchi contributed reporting from Minneapolis, Minn., and Chris Dixon from Folly Beach, S.C.