Midterms more heated after Kavanaugh confirmation widens divide in electorate
WASHINGTON – Women who have been driving the midterm elections as energized voters and first-time candidates already had fueled a recordbreaking gender gap that was boosting Democrats.
Now the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has provoked a backlash among those who argue the #MeToo movement has gone too far, a reaction that is increasing the odds Republicans can hold control of the Senate. Call it the gender wars, a midterm battle that could be a dry run for the presidential election in 2020 and fundamentally reshape the nation’s political parties.
The irony is this: It was the defeat of the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party that helped spur a new era of political engagement
by millions of women. Since Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 to Donald Trump, his disruptive leadership and hard-line policies on immigration and other issues have forged bonds with core supporters but also opened a breach with many women, including some GOPleaning and independent women who in the past have voted for Republicans.
The result has been a midterm election defined by women. A disparity between the way women and men view issues and how they vote isn’t new, but the divide has never been so yawning. Like so many things in American politics these days, it’s being propelled in large part by Trump.
The aftermath of Kavanaugh’s dramatic nomination hearings and narrow confirmation has spotlighted the gender divide that has inflamed some voters since Trump claimed the Republican presidential nomination two years ago. One side saw a credible woman whose account of sexual assault against a powerful man was not believed and not taken seriously. The other side saw an accomplished man whose reputation was being smeared by an accuser who couldn’t provide proof of her allegations or remember some details of her attack.
“The Democrats’ shameless campaign of political and personal destruction,” Trump declared at a campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas, hours after Kavanaugh had been confirmed. He has mocked Christine Blasey Ford’s account of an attempted rape and complained that he himself had been the victim of unfair accusations of sexual misconduct. “This is a very scary time for young men in America,” he told reporters. At a rally in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, Trump ridiculed the #MeToo movement, saying that “under the rules of MeToo, I’m not allowed” to use a certain expression. “See, in the old days, it was a little different,” he said to laughter.
That message seems to be resonating, energizing Republican voters who had been less enthused about the midterms than Democrats. GOP candidates in several too-close-to-call Senate races have seen their standing rise over the past week or so. As Election Day approaches:
❚ In a CNN poll released Tuesday, women by 30 percentage points, 63 to 33 percent, said they are more likely to vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district. Men by 5 points, 50 to 45 percent, said they were likely to vote for the Republican.
❚ An unprecedented number of women are running for office, mostly as Democrats. Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics calculates that 235 women have been nominated for the House; the previous record was 167. Twenty-two to date for the Senate; the record was 18. Sixteen for governor; the record was 10.
❚ In the latest Wall Street Journal/ NBC Poll, taken before Kavanaugh’s confirmation, white college-educated women said they planned to vote for the Democratic congressional candidate by 23 points. White workingclass men said they planned to vote for the Republican by 29 points.
Mary Schartman chants during a protest in Cincinnati against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this month.
Women supporting President Donald Trump’s actions and his latest Supreme Court pick seem to be in the minority.