Saturday, September 29, 2018

Message to GOP Senators - commit to learning the truth about Kavanaugh because women are watching

Friday (Sep. 28), the Editorial Board of the New York Times weighed in with two editorials on the Kavanaugh nomination.

It’s become obvious to all but the most partisan right winger that the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to suppress evidence and ignore witnesses with relevant information. As of yesterday, the “system” has one week to attone for that egregious behavior. The editors list what should have been and now should be investigated, speculating that Maybe America Can Now Learn the Truth. Thank you, Jeff Flake. They thank Sen. Jeff Flake for proposing this delay and the additional background checking. Kavanaugh may still escape this additional investigation with no further harm to his confirmation but that outcome would have been guaranteed in the absence of Flake’s action. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

One outcome of the whole process seems assured: Women Are Watching. Which should make Republican lawmakers very, very nervous. Crassley and Crew, by the way they conducted themselves, have certainly done damage to the Republican party. The Times editors tell us why and how in the following snippets.

Whatever happens next, Republican lawmakers ought to tread carefully. They thus far have not covered themselves in glory in their handling of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. This brief pause provides them with an opportunity to start repairing some of that damage, to try to come across as — and maybe even to actually be — more interested in the truth than in shoving through their nominee regardless of it. As they try to figure out how best to move forward, they would do well to keep something in mind: Women are watching.

As the Kavanaugh nightmare took form, women watched in dismay as Republican lawmakers worked to discredit Dr. Blasey by suggesting that she was either hopelessly confused, a political pawn or a liar. They watched in disbelief as Republicans repeatedly declined to call for an independent investigation into Dr. Blasey’s allegations, much less the subsequent ones brought by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. They watched in frustration as Republicans failed to call material witnesses or outside experts to testify.

And women most definitely were watching on Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary Committee spent the day listening to the testimony of Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey. Women saw how the 11 Republican men brought in a female prosecutor to chip away at Dr. Blasey’s account, while showing little interest in the alleged attack itself. They saw how those same Republican men then tripped over themselves to assure Judge Kavanaugh that they felt his pain and were so very sorry that Democrats had, as Senator Lindsey Graham shrieked in a display of self-righteous hysteria, conspired to put the nominee “through hell.”

Less than 24 hours later, the committee gave its seal of approval to Judge Kavanaugh and advanced his nomination to the full Senate on a party-line vote of 11 to 10.

And they did so in spite of, or perhaps because of, Kavanaugh’s incredibly awful rant and rave, behavior seen to be in itself disqualifying by former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman the other night on Chris Hayes’ All In.

Galvanized by watching Dr. Blasey get ripped apart, women — along with similarly outraged men — have held walkouts and sit-ins and have flocked to Capitol Hill. On Thursday, the steps of the Supreme Court were strewn with flowers as a show of support for Dr. Blasey. On Friday, protesters filled the halls around the hearing room with their chants that “November is coming!” Online, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport caught fire as women poured out stories of why they had long been afraid to speak out about their own experiences with sexual assault.

In response, Republican men have largely shrugged their shoulders — or worse, shifted into high dudgeon, issuing stern lectures about how such “character assassinations” will drive good men away from public service and how the real danger here is that this nation’s sons and husbands will all become vulnerable to false, or at least insignificant, accusations. This is straight-up culture warfare, a message of fear, resentment and male victimhood being sold as sympathetic concern for all those mothers and wives who, as Republicans tell it, could soon see their beloved males torn down by political plots. It’s a particularly rich message coming from some of the same conservative corners that dismissed the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh with the swinish rationalization that boys will be boys.

Then again, such attitudes reflect the broader values of this president and his party.

Mr. Trump’s cabinet contains notably few women’s voices. The president himself has been endlessly forgiving of men with reputations for mistreating women. From Roy Moore to Bill O’Reilly, from Bill Shine to Rob Porter — if you are a man who has been disgraced for behaving badly, the Trump White House wants you to know that it is on your side.

In policy terms, the administration has proved hostile to women on matters of reproductive health, not only chipping away at abortion rights but also curtailing access to birth control and peddling abstinence-only sex education. It also has worked to weaken protections for victims of sexual violence.

At the same time, Republicans in Congress have been fighting to take away women’s access to health care in general, targeting both Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act. They have also proved incapable of passing even basic legislation to reform how sexual harassment is handled within their own ranks.

Maybe Republicans don’t care about the message they’re sending. They’ve been losing ground with women for years now. And, while they’ve occasionally toyed with addressing the root causes of the gender gap, Mr. Trump’s election seems to have convinced them that things are fine after all. Why bother trying?

But this is a dangerous lesson. Along with all the protests and the political organizing, women have stepped up to run for office in record numbers. Polls show the gender gap to be growing ever wider in terms of whom women plan to vote for. (Hint: It’s not Republicans.) The Kavanaugh debacle is unlikely to help — barring an exculpatory revelation, of course. After the allegations against him surfaced, a similar gender gap began opening up in terms of who supported his nomination.

From atop his tower of self-pity on Thursday, Judge Kavanaugh warned that the partisan plot to tank his nomination would haunt Democrats. “You sowed the wind,” he bellowed. “For decades to come, I fear the whole country will reap the whirlwind.”

We don’t know about the whole country. Certainly, die-hard partisans will stick by their party, come what may. But, where more and more women are concerned, Republicans are overdue for a reckoning. Women have not simply been watching. They’ve been preparing their response. That response may come in 2018 or in 2020. But it will come. And, without a course correction far more dramatic than the frantic shuffling spurred by Mr. Flake’s 11th-hour pang of conscience, the damage Republican lawmakers are doing to their party could last for decades.

Have hope.

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