Earlier today, Jazz highlighted some polling that suggests the Kavanaugh spectacle is not going to be good news for Democrats next month. Apparently, word is filtering through the Democratic Party and the Daily Beast reports this has created a schism between those who believe this could backfire and those who see it as a turning point for women.
“The truth is that in nationalized elections—most of which are presidential but some of which can be midterms—if the dominant issue terrain is around the cultural atmosphere, Democrats lose,” said Kenneth Baer, a former Obama administration official and founder of Crosscut Strategies, LLC. “I can not think of any election in the postwar period where Democrats have won when that was the case.”
For the first time since the Kavanaugh accusations surfaced, a fissure has become apparent within the Democratic ranks over what the best political strategy is moving forward. While Baer and others worry that the party has become too consumed by the Supreme Court fight (one top party official called it a “Kavanaugh bump”) others argued that it had cemented a portrayal of Republicans as acutely anti-women…
Kevin Mack, the chief strategist on Tom Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign said that levels of volunteering, petition signing, online actions and town hall attendees were way up over the past ten days. The organization had more than 18,000 people sign written note cards calling for impeachment on Wednesday night alone. But, he cautioned, “Kavanaugh has taken the spotlight off Trump which is bad for Democrats and at the same time, allowed the GOP to focus on cultural issues which expands their eroding base.”
Jennifer Palmieri, the former Clinton communications director, sees it differently. She told Daily Beast, “The fault in that thinking is not understanding that this is a historical moment for women and that this will go down in history at the moment it was revealed how rampant sexual assault is and how it is no longer going to be tolerated.”
The problem with Palmieri’s formula is that it really only makes sense if you assume the person accused is guilty. So, in a case like the allegations about Harvey Weinstein, he had a long history filled with many accusers telling very similar stories. And most of those people told others about the incidents contemporaneously, often decades before the story became news.
We don’t have a similar situation with Judge Kavanaugh. There are three accusers, one of whom doesn’t accuse Kavanaugh of touching her, another of whom was drunk at the time and remained uncertain she was recalling events correctly as recently as two weeks ago. The remaining accuser seems the most credible. But even her story isn’t corroborated by other people she says were there at the time. And some stories have cropped up this week suggesting some of her testimony may have been exaggerated (her fear of flying and the reason for her 2nd front door) which doesn’t help her credibility overall.
Of course, there will still be plenty of people involved in Women’s March who absolutely believe the accusations, largely because they want Kavanaugh kept off the court no matter what. Those folks were already going to pull the lever for Democrats and they still will. But I don’t think they are representative of all women. Meanwhile, a lot of Republicans who had been feeling blase heading into the midterms are now worked up by what they’ve seen done to Kavanaugh and more likely to vote or donate than they would have been before this happened.
There is one final wrinkle though. If Kavanaugh is confirmed Saturday Republicans will take that as a big win, Democrats as a big loss. The question is whether the GOP feels satisfied by the win that they relax before the election while Democrats, who are still angry about the loss, go to the polls. We’ll have to wait and see if the GOP momentum keeps growing.