Gender wars: Women were driving the midterms for Democrats. Can a backlash boost the GOP?

WASHINGTON — Women who have been driving the midterm elections as energized voters and first-time candidates already had fueled a record-breaking gender gap that was boosting Democrats.

Now the battle over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court has provoked a backlash among those who argue the #MeToo movement has gone too far, a reaction that is increasing the odds Republicans can hold control of the Senate.

Call it the gender wars, a midterm battle that could be a dry run for the presidential election in 2020 and fundamentally reshape the nation's political parties. 

The irony is this: It was the defeat of the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party that helped spur a new era of political engagement by millions of women. Since Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016 to Donald Trump, his disruptive leadership and hard-line policies on immigration and other issues have forged bonds with core supporters but also opened a breach with many women, including some GOP-leaning and independent women who in the past have voted for Republicans.

The result has been a midterm election defined by women. "Women candidates, women voters and women issues are all together at the forefront, and that's been true the whole cycle," Democratic pollster Margie Omero said. 

A disparity between the way women and men view issues and how they vote isn't new, but the divide has never been so yawning. Like so many things in American politics these days, it's being propelled in large part by President Trump.

The aftermath of Kavanaugh's dramatic nomination hearings and narrow confirmation has spotlighted the gender divide that has inflamed some voters since Trump claimed the Republican presidential nomination two years ago. One side saw a credible woman whose account of sexual assault against a powerful man was not believed and not taken seriously. The other side saw an accomplished man whose reputation was being smeared by an accuser who couldn't provide proof of her allegations or remember some details of her attack.

"The Democrats' shameless campaign of political and personal destruction," President Trump declared at a campaign rally in Topeka hours after Kavanaugh had been confirmed. He has mocked Christine Blasey Ford's account of an attempted rape and complained that he himself had been the victim of unfair accusations of sexual misconduct. "This is a very scary time for young men in America," he told reporters. 

At a rally in Pennsylvania Wednesday, Trump ridiculed the #MeToo movement, saying "under the rules of MeToo, I'm not allowed" to use a certain expression. "See, in the old days, it was a little different," he said to laughter. 

That message seems to be resonating, energizing Republican voters who had been less enthused about the midterms than Democrats. GOP candidates in several too-close-to-call Senate races have seen their standing rise over the past week or so.

 "The Kavanaugh effect ... is changing their U.S. Senate picture," GOP pollster Bill McInturff said. In Arizona, Republican Martha McSally led Democrat Kyrsten Sinema by six percentage points in a new statewide poll this week. In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn led Democrat Phil Bredesen by eight points. In Nevada, Republican Dean Heller edged up to a two-point lead over Democrat Jacky Rosen.

And in North Dakota, analysts in both parties say Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp hurt her chances of winning a second term when she voted against confirming Kavanaugh. Trump carried the state in 2016 by one of his widest margins anywhere, 36 percentage points. Republican challenger Kevin Cramer, who already had opened a 10 or 12-point lead in the race, has embraced Trump and declared his support for Kavanaugh.

"The political rhetoric is, 'You can't vote that way if you expect to come back,'" Heitkamp said a few days later as she campaigned in Wyndmere, N.D., acknowledging the likely effect of her decision. "And I tell people, Ray and Doreen Heitkamp didn't raise me to vote a certain way so that I could win. They raised me to vote the right way."

While key Senate races are mostly in conservative red states that Trump swept in 2016, many of the swing House races are in suburban districts where voters tend to be more moderate. 

In these districts, the "Kavanaugh effect" may be galvanizing voters who felt it was his accuser who wasn't given a fair hearing.

"It was just another, additional piece of evidence for Democratic voters and particularly Democratic women that ... women are not valued as much as men and they aren't to be believed, and they don't matter," said Shana Kushner Gadarian, a political scientist at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. "Since 2016, there's been a big push against that. That's one reason women say they're running: We need more women's voices. The Kavanaugh hearings were an additional piece of evidence that there needs to be more women's voices in politics."

The day after Trump's inauguration, a massive Women's March signaled the strength of the resistance to his presidency. Now the coalition of groups that helped organize the Women's Marches is holding a series of them leading up to the midterms, beginning in Chicago and Massachusetts on Saturday. Later this month, the "Marches on the Polls" are scheduled in Seattle, Atlanta, Houston, Little Rock, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.

The series concludes with marches planned for New York City and on college campuses on Election Day.

There's still time before Nov. 6 for a new controversy to erupt that persuades Americans to change their vote or determines whether they go to the polls – the single most crucial task in midterm elections. Trump, who has been doing more campaign rallies for the midterms than any modern president, looms as a wild card.

That said, this fall's midterms are poised to provide the latest evidence of a fundamental shift underway in American politics: The movement of white college-educated women (many of them once Republican or Republican-leaning) to the Democrats, and the movement of white men without a college education (part of the old FDR Democratic coalition) to the GOP.

Trump didn't start this shift, but he has accelerated it. 

If that trend holds, it might well mean that the gender wars are just getting started.


October 12, 2018

Sources: USA Today

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  • U.N. Syria Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, Announces Resignation

    U.N. Syria Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, Announces Resignation

    Mistura, said Wednesday that he would step down at the end of November, becoming the third diplomat to leave the job since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.</p><p>Mr. de Mistura announced his resignation as special envoy during a meeting of the Security Council after four years and four months in the role, at a time when the future of Syria is uncertain. His departure could complicate efforts to negotiate an end to the war as it is winding down.</p><p>While his predecessors left the job out of frustration, Mr. de Mistura, 71, said he was leaving for “purely personal reasons,” adding, “I will definitely not say goodbye or engage in reflections today.”</p><p>The conflict, which began as a popular uprising in 2011 before degenerating into civil war, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.</p><p>The United Nations-backed peace process, the so-called Geneva talks, are the longest running attempt at peacemaking in Syria and have been convened eight times with no significant progress. While the talks have deadlocked, the Syrian government, with its Iranian and Russian allies, has nearly succeeded in defeating the opposition.</p><p>Those Russia-led talks also created a framework to establish a committee to write a new Constitution for Syria, a goal Mr. de Mistura has pushed for.</p><p>Mr. de Mistura had previously served as a deputy foreign minister in the Italian government and as the head of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan.</p><p>Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who worked closely with him, expressed admiration for his “herculean effort, every day, every night, every weekend” for four years trying to bring parties to the Syrian conflict to the negotiating table.</p><p>“It’s been the same uphill battle his predecessors faced, but against all the odds, there have been a number of achievements,” Mr. Egeland said.</p><p>He said that Mr. de Mistura had made the peace process more inclusive, bringing in civil society groups and women, and had also spoken bluntly about atrocities and abuse of civilians.</p><p>“It’s been one crisis and horror after another, from Homs to Aleppo, to Raqqa to Eastern Ghouta to Daraa and now Idlib,” Mr. Egeland said. “There never seems to be a good time to step down.”</p><p>Mr. de Mistura said that he had not given up on the peace process, and that he would spend his last month in the job working to create a “credible and balanced” constitutional committee for Syria.</p><p>“A month can be a century in politics,” he said. “We will still have a very intense and, hopefully, fruitful month ahead. I am not laying down the charge until the last hour of the last day of my mandate.”</p><p>Megan Specia reported from New York, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.</p>

    1 October 18, 2018
  •  Greek far-left extremist seeks release on health grounds

    Greek far-left extremist seeks release on health grounds

    life terms in a maximum-security Athens prison, is severely disabled.</p><p> Xiros was badly injured when a bomb he was trying to plant exploded prematurely in 2002 in Athens. He was arrested and his interrogation led to the quick unravelling of the previously elusive group that killed 23 Western diplomats and Greeks between 1975 and 2000.</p><p> Two of Xiros' brothers were among the group's members.</p><p> Recent legislation designed to ease overcrowding in Greek prisons has made it quicker to release convicts on health and other grounds.</p>

    1 October 18, 2018


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