Wednesday, October 03, 2018


The president thinks he can get away with mocking Christine Blasey Ford at a campaign rally because he got away with mocking so many other people in the run-up to the 2016 election.
His voice dripping with derision, he ... imitated her being questioned at the hearing, followed by her responses about what she could not recall about the alleged attack.

“How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd applauded. “But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”
The difference in 2016 was that the battle was between two candidates who were out of power. Neither one held office. Trump was in no position to wield power, so many voters didn't really understand what they had to fear.

I think that's how the battle over Brett Kavanaugh seems now to a lot of people -- two sets of (not well-liked) partisans are jousting for power. The outrage won't really hit home for a lot of people until -- and I think this is all but inevitable -- Kavanaugh wins his Senate vote and is seated on the Supreme Court. At that moment, people who aren't enraged now will fully grasp that one of the sides in this battle simply had more power, and used that power to grind Kavanaugh's accusers into the dust.

A couple of weeks ago, Janie Velencia at FiveThirtyEight reviewed the polling history of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas battle. Note that Thomas started with an advantage and maintained it throughout the testimony:
First, Thomas’s nomination was extremely popular among the public. In a July Gallup poll taken soon after Thomas’s nomination, 52 percent of Americans supported his confirmation, while just 17 percent were against it. Just after he was nominated, Thomas polled better than just about any other modern Supreme Court nominee.

What’s more, after Hill came forward to testify against him in early October of 1991, Thomas’s support only rose, eventually peaking at 58 percent in Gallup’s historical tracking.

... her testimony didn’t shift opinions. Forty-seven percent of Americans thought the accusations against Thomas were not true, while 21 percent thought they were, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted days before Hill testified. After her testimony was broadcast on live TV, another CBS News/New York Times poll found that an even greater share doubted Hill’s accusations; 54 percent said they thought her charges were untrue, and 27 percent thought they were true. According to a Times article on the poll, “there was little difference” in the responses from men and women.
And then Thomas was confirmed -- and the polling changed.
Even just one year after Thomas’s confirmation, surveys found that Americans had shifted their perspective in favor of Hill. By a margin of 43 percent to 39 percent, Americans believed the law professor over Thomas, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in October of 1992. In June of 1994, an ABC News poll found 34 percent of Americans thought Hill was sexually harassed by Thomas, while 31 percent thought she was not. The rest either said they didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion.
In polling, Clarence Thomas had the upper hand until he won. What followed was 1992, "the Year of the Woman," in which record numbers of female candidates were elected to Congress.

Polling today reveals a lot more support for Dr. Blasey Ford than there was for Anita Hill during the Thomas hearings. But I think the real impact will come when Trump, Kavanaugh, and Mitch McConnell win. It will be obvious who had the real power.

I know the conventional conservative wisdom on Kavanaugh and the midterms. Here it is summed up by John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster:
If Kavanaugh is withdrawn, you’d see fewer Republicans at the polls. It would be particularly devastating to social conservatives and Evangelicals, and would put states like Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Tennessee at risk. But If Republicans stand behind Kavanaugh, then Democrats are looking at losing seats in North Dakota and West Virginia if they don’t support him.
I can't address how this will play in rabidly pro-Trump states, but in the country as a whole I believe that the ultimate humiliation of Christine Blasey Ford will be a significant motivator for Democrats in November. It won't be real for many voters until they see who triumphs.

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