Vilifying half the population may sound like a risky campaign strategy, but Democratic man-bashing has soared as the party fights to beat back the Kavanaugh nomination and whip up support for the midterms.
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, made an anti-male tirade heard ‘round the world — “Just shut up and step up” — signaling the party’s willingness to slap all men with the #MeToo label if that’s what it takes to bring down Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court bid.
After Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of a sexual assault from 36 years ago came to light, Ms. Hirono said, “But really, guess who is perpetuating all of these kinds of actions? It’s the men in this country.”
“And I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change,” Ms. Hirono said.
Even male Democrats such as Rep. John Garamendi of California have jumped in, calling this “a defining moment for the #MeToo movement.”
“Women for decades have faced this situation. They have always when they come forward with an accusation of assault or rape,” Mr. Garamendi said on CNN. “They become the victim in the hearing. And we have to put a stop to that. Women across this nation should be outraged at what these white men senators are doing to this woman.”
For others — including significant numbers of women — the move to defeat the Kavanaugh nomination based on an accusation from his teen years and released after the Senate committee hearings has the look of a purely political ploy and example of selective outrage.
Exhibit A: Few Democrats have commented on Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, who was accused last month of emotional and physical abuse by a former girlfriend during their relationship that ended in 2016. The state party has been reviewing the accusations, which he has denied, for three weeks.
Juanita Broaddrick said that none of the Senate Democrats — including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who referred the Kavanaugh accusation to federal authorities — who served in 1999 showed any interest in her rape accusation against President Clinton.
Others are uneasy about the specter of destroying a man’s reputation and career based on a claim that omits key details, including when and where. The two men accused of attending the party at which the assault reportedly occurred have said they have no recollection of any such gathering.
Even so, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, has made her decision on Mr. Kavanaugh’s guilt, telling MSNBC, “I believe her. Her story is credible.”
The Independent Women’s Forum challenged the #MeToo credo that all sexual misconduct accusations should be believed. “All claims must be evaluated on the basis of the evidence and on the credibility of the accuser and the accused,” it said.
“As an organization of women, IWF takes seriously any and all allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse,” the group said in a statement. “But as an organization committed to fairness and due process, IWF also understands that allegations cannot be accepted as true simply because they are made by a woman.”
When it comes to weaponizing a high-profile sexual abuse allegation to drive voters, however, the Democratic Party has history on its side.
The 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings ended with his confirmation for the Supreme Court, but the he-said-she-said over law professor Anita Hill’s accusations of raunchy language and gestures in the workplace led to the 1992 Year of the Woman.
A record number of women were elected to Congress and the Senate that year. This election season has been described as a potential repeat, with the number of female candidates at the state and federal levels shattering previous marks, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Most of the female candidates this year are Democrats. The accusation of sexual abuse made by professor Christine Blasey Ford could be the catalyst Democrats need to send their voters to the traditionally lower-turnout midterms.
Then again, there is also evidence that the anti-male approach is costing the Democrats voters. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released in April found that the party suffered a 9-point drop in support among white male voters ages 18-34 from 2016 to 2018.
Opposition to Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination ticked up after Ms. Blasey Ford’s accusation was made public, increasing from 30 percent to 36 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday.
What could swing the #MeToo momentum the other way is if Ms. Blasey Ford refuses to testify. At first, she said she would not testify until the FBI had investigated, but then said Thursday through her attorney that she would agree to appear, but not when the Senate Judiciary Committee meets Monday.
Judge Kavanaugh is scheduled to appear Monday before the committee to discuss the charges.
“She wishes to testify, provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible, and the Committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary,” Ford attorney Debra Katz said in a statement.
Pollster Frank Luntz said Wednesday that Democrats brought in Ms. Hill for a series of media appearances because “they realized within 24 hours that this story was turning — that people were starting to wonder, ‘Why is she backing off?’ “
“I question whether this will be significant 10 days from now because it does look like she isn’t going to testify,” Mr. Luntz told Fox’s Laura Ingraham. “The American people believe in fairness. And they believe that everyone deserves their day in court. They want to hear what she has to say.”
Democrats have argued that it would be too traumatic for Ms. Blasey Ford to testify before the committee, although Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, has offered to have her interviewed in a private setting in California.
“In this situation, you may see women angry, that they are being used, that they are being scapegoated, that they are being pulled into a political process, that they want no part of it,” Mr. Luntz said. “Authenticity matters more than anything in 2016. And this doesn’t seem authentic right now.”
• Valerie Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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