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2018 -The Year Of Women on the Ballots And at The Polls

By Richard Hugh Blackford

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to fill Justice Robert’s vacant seat on the United States Supreme Court on the weekend, is now for the ages. The victory for the GOP was secured with a 50-48 Senate vote but not before the most contentious SCOTUS confirmation process ever witnessed in this country. Kavanaugh’s confirmation may well have been seen as a “shoo-in” by most until accusations rose that the learned judge in his teen years had attempted to rape another teen at a party more than 35 years earlier. Kavanaugh’s denial produced a firestorm of protests and push-backs, including unaccustomed testy responses from the nominee to the Senators conducting those hearings.

It was always an acceptable fiat that the confirmation would have succeeded, as politically, Democrats just did not have the requisite votes needed to set back the exercise, and this was one of the looming consequences of Hilary Clinton’s loss. Professor Christine Blasey-Ford’s late revelation, though, provided the fillip needed to stall the process even as it reopened the perennial debate relative to the longstanding problem of sexual assault, nationally. Within days of the revelation though, it became clear that the Kavanaugh affair would provide a necessary injection of electoral interest for both the Democratic and GOP camps, serving to energize the voting base of both. In the process, it served also in exposing the extent to which the nation has been polarized and, in the process, it served to expose the GOP’s chauvinism as well as its lack of sensitivity with respect to women’s issues. Beyond that, the Kavanaugh affair also provided a huge lens for Americans to be able to look at themselves and especially, for women, it raised concern for the future of Legislation pertaining to Women’s Rights.

It is this awakening that has over the past 12 months, jolted a generation of women to the possibility that certain Rights that they had taken for granted could also be taken away. As the Supreme Court began to nibble at Roe v. Wade, “choice” took on the moral urgency that in another generation had been reserved for protesting the Vietnam War.

Women who led the charge in protesting against Kavanaugh’s nomination have since vowed to continue fighting in the wake of his historic confirmation, warning Republicans they could suffer a backlash in the midterm elections. This fear has been shared by some analysts who have stated that the controversial confirmation makes Kavanaugh the least popular Supreme Court justice in modern history and a pariah on whom Republicans may ultimately have to hang the blame for their loss of seats in vulnerable districts during the upcoming midterm elections.

History may be on the side of these pundits as the affair closely approximates to the experience in 1992, which immediately followed the contentious Clarence Thomas confirmation a year earlier. In those 1992 elections four women were elected to the U.S. Senate while California became the first state with two female Senators, between Democrats Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Washington elected Democrat Patty Murray and Illinois elected Carol Moseley Braun, the first female African-American Senator; while Maryland re-elected Democrat Barbara Mikulski, boosting the number of female senators from three to seven.

For the record, 24 women won U.S. House seats that year, increasing representation from 30 to 48. In down ballot races, women ran for and secured seats in their state legislatures, school boards and county commissions. A year later, (1993), Texans sent Kay Bailey Hutchison to the Senate in a special election.

It is difficult to argue against the impact of Hill’s testimony even though this came more than a full year prior to the elections. It seemed that women suddenly came awake to the reality that social gains that they often took for granted could just as easily be taken away, especially with the Court quietly chipping away at Roe v Wade and the principle of “a woman’s right to choose.”

For many women, the lingering visuals of 14 white men confronting a Black woman that they perceived they would normally encounter only in the form of a hotel maid was very difficult to shake. This sparked the interests of women in integrating, even as little echoes of raised consciousness could be heard throughout the land as women plotted to integrate the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Admittedly, Anita Hill’s testimony came a year before women’s poll success, providing enough time for new candidates to sign up to run. In contrast, Christine Blasey-Ford’s allegations came with just a little over a month to go before the midterms. The evidence of an anti-incumbency is undeniable as record numbers of women are this year running for Governor and for Congress. This factor precipitated by Donald Trump’s presence is similarly providing a catalyst for many more voters to come out and vote.

Currently there are 84 women serving in the House but that could grow to 211 as that is the number of women running this November. Similarly, there are 17 women contesting for Senate seats and 16 contesting Gubernatorial races. The reality though is that politics in America cuts deep, and men have dominated the political space for the entire 240 plus years and are in no hurry to volunteer political room to women who make up 52 percent of the US population. The under-representation apart, the partisan effect may be greater than any gender gap as the percentage of Democratic men who say it’s harder for women to get elected, 64 percent, is greater than the percentage of Republican women who say the same thing, 55 percent. Add to that,  a majority of voters say it’s harder for women to win office, a factor that contributed to Clinton’s loss in 2016.  It is hoped that this view may be changing as 2018 once more takes spotlight as the “Year of the Woman” — with more women than ever are running for Congress and governor this cycle.

Women’s groups and progressive policy organizations which organized massive demonstrations during the confirmation process said they would once again mobilize efforts ahead of the midterms. For them, “If we organize, mobilize, and vote, we will win. We must all commit to action in coming weeks to take back control of our government from right-wing extremists.”

After 2016, we would all be hard put to remember that elections have consequences and commit to addressing the mistakes of 2016 by going out and VOTE.

This may be the single most important election in our history. Do not complain…VOTE.

 

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