Following the Kavanaugh confirmation, a lot of progressive pundits and Washington swampies started wondering out loud if the newly energized Republican base would stay energized long enough to vote in November.
There are times when these guys are, to borrow a phrase, the dumbest smart kids in the room.
How could the Republican base not stay energized? The left’s hyperventilating activists won’t shut up about Kavanaugh long enough to let Republicans cool down.And neither will Trump. He’ll be speaking at big rallies almost every day between now and Election Day, the modern-day equivalent of Harry Truman’s furious whistle-stop campaigning in 1948, and at all of them he’ll be waving Kavanaugh’s bloody shirt and tearing into Democrats as angry, unhinged extremists.
The bases of both parties will be pumped up to the last ganglion and then some until Nov. 6. That much is about as certain as anything can be in politics.
But speculating about the relative energy in the Republican and Democratic bases may be speculating about the wrong thing.
As pollster and BFF Paul Talmey used to remind me, most elections are decided by those voters who feel least strongly about the candidates and issues involved.
There can be a lot of reasons for a voter’s absence of passion about a particular race. It may be that they don’t follow politics and know nothing about the candidates or even the office. Or that they view the race as a choice of the lesser of two evils.
Or it may be because they aren’t directly affected by the issues or the outcome.
But sometimes something comes along that fires up non-passionate voters or, more important, just nudges them toward one candidate or another.
Democrats think the issues that can do that this time are the #MeToo grievances — sexual assault and harassment of women, threats to abortion rights, white male privilege and so on. They think these issues and the Kavanaugh affair will energize women in suburban districts to vote for Democrats even if they don’t feel particularly strongly about them. These voters don’t have to be mad as hell, just energized enough to send a message with their vote.
It’s a strategy that may well deliver the House of Representatives to Democrats. Or maybe not.
Discussion of the political impact of the Kavanaugh affair has focused almost exclusively on how it will move women to vote. Almost no attention has been given to how it might move men.
The assumption seems to be that since abortion and #MeToo issues don’t impact many men directly, those issues don’t make a big difference in how they vote.
That may have been true in the past, but it may not be true this year, thanks to how the Democrats treated Kavanaugh and what that says about how they see men generally. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation may or may not have been true. But a lot of Democrats — like Senators Booker, Hirono, Gillibrand and Blumenthal with a lot of amens from the grassroots — have made it clear that they no longer believed truth was a defense against such accusations. The accusation itself is sufficient to at least provisionally condemn the accused — which is another way of saying that the presumption of innocence until proven guilty doesn’t apply in #MeToo cases.
Moreover the message was delivered dripping with snark and anger about “the patriarchy,” “white male privilege,” “toxic masculinity,” “old white men,” etc. — or more plainly with the new racism and sexism that has come to define the Democratic Party’s identity politics.
Nobody knows how many men groped or harassed or bullied or shamed a girl in high school or college or wrote something offensive in a high school year-book, but chances are the numbers run into the millions.And for a lot of those men, the take-away messages from the Kavanaugh hearings are: 1) No one is safe, 2) There is no defense, and 3) There but for the grace of God go I.
Feminist militants may reply that they have it coming, that now they have some inkling of what it feels like to be wronged and disbelieved, that they should suck it up and shut up, and so on.
And they have a point there. But they should also ask themselves this question: Is threatening and insulting men going to make them more likely or less likely to vote for your candidates? Is it going to give male voters who don’t feel as strongly about #MeToo issues as women, but do feel threatened and insulted by how the Democrats are weaponizing them, the nudge to vote Republican?
A surprisingly common mistake of both amateur and professional politicos of all stripes is they forget that half the voters are members of the opposite sex. Republicans have been burned by this error repeatedly in the past. This year it may be the Democrats’ turn.