President Donald Trump and Republican Senate leaders proclaimed after Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation that it was a huge win for the party. The GOP base is engaged. This will turn around the midterms! Unfortunately, with very little analysis and zero polling, scores of male pundits (not to mention right-wing publications) touted this as fact.
Some of us warned that, contrary to Republican spin, the Kavanaugh fight would likely light a fire under female voters - who were already peeved with Republicans for supporting a president who had bragged about sexual assault, had stood behind alleged spousal abuser and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, had endorsed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and had ridiculed the #MeToo movement.
As polling data came out, we have found that, lo and behold, there is no lift for Republicans from confirming Christine Blasey Ford's alleged attacker to the Supreme Court, a sitting judge who indulged in a partisan screed and revealed his contempt for the female senators who questioned him.
A Post/ABC News poll found that "that 43 percent of Americans believe the court's rulings will be more politically motivated with President Trump's second nominee on the court, compared with 10 percent who said they will be less political. To 39 percent of the public, Kavanaugh's presence will make no difference in the degree of partisanship."
Moreover, "women say the episode draws them toward Democrats over Republicans by a 16-point margin, while men are more evenly split. While many of the results in the poll fall along familiar partisan lines, it also found that political independents are more suspicious than supportive of the new justice. According to the survey, 55 percent of independents say there should be further investigation of Kavanaugh, while 40 percent are opposed."
This is in line with other polling that shows voters believed Ford over Kavanaugh, opposed his confirmation and heightened Democrats' enthusiasm. It seems Republicans and, in turn, many in the media discounted the rage women voters were experiencing. The Washington Post reported:
"By 40 percent to 24 percent, women say the debate makes them more likely to back Democratic than Republican candidates. Men are more evenly split, with 30 percent more likely to back Republicans and 25 percent more likely to back Democrats.
"Among independents, women by a margin of 37 percent to 12 percent say the confirmation process has made them more likely to support Democrats than Republicans. Independent men are near-evenly split with 22 percent saying it made them more likely to support Democrats vs. 24 percent for Republicans."
Even more striking, a majority of Americans favor further investigation into the flawed confirmation process. ("53 percent of Americans support further investigation of Kavanaugh by Congress, while 43 percent are opposed.")
Sure, in deep-red states (Texas, North Dakota) Republican Senate candidates are gaining, but this may be nothing more than the normal phenomenon of voters returning to partisan alignment as the election draws near. (At any rate, Republicans remain out of contention in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania - all states Trump won in 2016.) Meanwhile, in House races, the gender divide is sinking GOP candidates.
It is no surprise that Trump and his GOP supporters wanted to spin Kavanaugh as an electoral winner; saying it is so, they dearly hoped, would lift Republican spirits. None of us should be surprised that Republicans - who referred to female sex-crime survivors as a "mob" and mocked Ford - would discount the reaction of women. It would, however, behoove the media to be somewhat more skeptical of Republicans' self-serving spin and to understand the cultural phenomenon Republicans unleashed, prompting thousands of women to tell their most painful experiences for the first time.
In 2016 and beyond, we had an unending series of reports - often from Rust Belt diners - in which interviews featured white men expressing their resentment of cultural elites. We failed these folks somehow, overlooked them and didn't show them sufficient respect, or so the narrative went. In fact, on average, Trump voters were wealthier than Hillary Clinton's voters.
Where's the same level of coverage and willingness to give voice now to outraged women (white or nonwhite, college-educated or not)? I suspect we will see a whole bunch more of such coverage after next month's midterms about the degree to which politicians have failed to serve women's interests or respect their concerns.
I hope the media asks Republican politicians and consultants how they so misjudged the impact Kavanaugh would have on voters, especially women. I suspect we’ll find that they just didn’t take women’s anger all that seriously.