After their initial defensive flurry, Republicans quickly recognized that ramming Kavanaugh’s nomination through without affording Ford an opportunity to testify under oath would be politically suicidal. But even though they’ve hit the pause button and slated a public hearing for Monday, it’s likely that many women in the electorate have already gotten the message, one that mirrors the message they’ve received from Trump Republicans all along: that the ruling patriarchy does not respect, and indeed feels threatened by, the power of women.
Come November, these dynamics could have serious consequences for the Republicans on the ballot. The gender gap—essentially, the difference in the way men and women vote—has generally plagued the GOP at the national level since 1992, when, in the so-called Year of the Woman, Democrats won back the White House after 12 years in the wilderness. Bill Clinton was buoyed by strong female support, and the gap was even wider when he won reelection in 1996. That year, male voters split more or less evenly between Clinton and his challenger, Bob Dole, but women favored Clinton by 18 percentage points.
The gender split was mostly about policy—that’s why the female majority tended to vote Democratic back then. To name some examples: Women, unlike men, tended to support a more expansive role for the federal government. Women, unlike men, tended to believe more strongly in the importance of a government safety net, and they didn’t like when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich targeted it for budget cuts. They also didn’t like when Republicans called for the abolition of the federal Department of Education.
At the same time, women were becoming more economically and professionally powerful, and Republican leaders “just didn’t get it,” as Jack Pitney, a former party strategist, told me in 1996. The same year, Alex Castellanos, a Republican consultant, told me (in a semi-joking manner): “Things were simpler back when the daddy bears brought home the income, and the mommy bears were the caregivers and interior decorators.” [Continue reading…]