Gen­der wars heat up for midterms

At­tacks on Ka­vanaugh may cre­ate back­lash

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Su­san Page USA TO­DAY

WASH­ING­TON – Women who have been driv­ing the midterm elec­tions as en­er­gized vot­ers and first-time can­di­dates had al­ready 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. “Women can­di­dates, women vot­ers and women is­sues are all to­gether at the fore­front, and that’s been true the whole cy­cle,” Demo­cratic poll­ster Margie Omero said.

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,” Pres­i­dent Trump de­clared at a cam­paign rally in Topeka, Kansas, hours af­ter Ka­vanaugh had been con­firmed

That mes­sage seems to be res­onat­ing, en­er­giz­ing Repub­li­can vot­ers who had been less en­thused about the midterms than Democrats.

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