What’s Going to Happen with White, Suburban Women in the Midterm Elections?

Will white suburban women, angered over the Kavanaugh confirmation, vote with the Democrats this November? Nate Silver has been talking about it. It was a subject of the podcast, The Daily, this week. Dan Drezner wrote about it. Well, this blogger is about as white and suburban and female as it comes, so how about I answer this question?

So, I was completely engrossed in the drama around the Kavanaugh hearing. CNN was on all day long. I was on twitter all day long. And so were all my writer/academic/political friends. Typically, I tweet sparingly and get about 50K impressions per month. In that two-week period, I got over 500K impressions.

During the hearings, I would periodically put my hair up in a messy ponytail and leave the house. I would turn to a local friend and say “CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT’S GOING ON?!!!” and she would be like, “what are you talking about? Let’s talk about the kids’ prom.” Seriously, this made very little dent outside the world of super crazy political people like myself.

And among the handful of local friends who were engaged in the discussion, there were some who were very upset at Kavanaugh and were sure that he was a drunken rapist. And there were some that looked at Christine Ford and thought she was batshit crazy. Seriously. Some made that determination because she has “the skin of an alcoholic”, as one said; others were a couple degrees away from her former high school friends and heard stories.

Sexual assault was a common topic. Pretty much everyone I spoke with said that they had been assaulted when they were in their 20s. These assaults, they said, weren’t nearly-raped-level of assault; it was exposure, grabbing without consent, kissing without consent, gross comments, and minor fooling around when totally loaded and impossible to give consent. Even the Kavanaugh supporters said that this happened to them constantly when they were young and that they were worried about their daughters and nieces, but they also said that they got over those assaults really quickly. It was just a way of life back then, and it certainly didn’t cause anyone to put two front doors on their house. Way worse things happened to them as they got older, like the death of a parent and cancer.

This morning, as I was watching the Today Show and waiting for Ian’s school bus, the ads for local elections were all about taxes. The only reference to women and #MeToo in those came from the Republican opponent to Senator Bob Menendez, because he has a hooker and corruption problem. Sigh. I’m still voting for him anyway, but I’m not happy about it.

I’m not sure that many people are going to switch parties, because of Kavanaugh and other accumulated issues. It might increase voting turnout, but it will even out. Democrats and Republicans were equally fired up over the hearings. Sorry, it’s a bummer of a prediction, but there it is.

36 thoughts on “What’s Going to Happen with White, Suburban Women in the Midterm Elections?

  1. I work at a megacorp and sit next to an admin. This is a white woman in her 50s, high school education, lives in the exurbs of our mid-sized Midwestern city. We’ve never gotten too far into politics, but I’ve gathered that she votes conservative but is most apolitical in that she doesn’t follow politics closely. During the Kavanaugh hearings she confided that she was really upset by them and thought he shouldn’t be confirmed. I was quite surprised by that.

    I agree with you that this probably didn’t change any of the minds of people with strong political affiliation. There is however a vast group of people, close to half of all adults, who either don’t vote at all or who don’t feel strongly about politics. For these people, I think it possible that the Kavanaugh debacle did have a negative impact on their view of the Republican Party. Will that actually translate into more votes for Democrats, now or in the future? Hard to say, but in terms of perceptions I think it Kavanaugh is a political loss point for Republicans. Polling supports this possibility in that a majority of adults say they do not him.


  2. Based on (i) my facebook feed and (ii) the bloggers I read, including Laura, I would say that the Kavanaugh episode changed exactly no one’s mind.

    I commented to this effect on facebook, and one of my friends responded that her facebook feed, unlike mine, was full of female despair and anger over Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I was going to ask, “Really? Your conservative Republican female friends are full of despair and anger?” knowing full well that she doesn’t have any conservative Republican female friends, but I like to stay friends with people, so I didn’t.


    1. “I was going to ask, “Really? Your conservative Republican female friends are full of despair and anger?” knowing full well that she doesn’t have any conservative Republican female friends, but I like to stay friends with people, so I didn’t.”


      I’m obviously a conservative woman, I have a lot of sympathy toward MeToo, and I was thrilled to bits when Roy Moore’s political career imploded. But then I looked at the specific accusations against Kavanaugh, and they looked like complete garbage–the quality of these accusations has been noticeably poorer than those against previous men accused of sexual misconduct. I’m going to generalize and say that when a guy is dirty, there’s dirt all over–once you start looking, it’s very easy to find.

      To go for the really low-hanging fruit, let’s look at Avenatti’s protege, Julie Swetnick.


      She initially claimed that she attended many gang-rape-centered parties organized by 15 or 16-year-old high school age Kavanaugh. However, her story eventually deteriorated to the point where “Asked in the interview if she specifically saw Kavanaugh or his friend Mark Judge spike drinks, she said she saw Kavanaugh “around the punch containers” and had seen him “giving red cups to quite a few girls during that time frame.”


      In addition, nobody from the obviously tight-knit early 80s prep school crowd that Kavanaugh belonged to remembers Swetnick, who was a college student at UMD when she was allegedly hanging out with these prep school kids (so, both a completely different social group and age group). She can’t produce anybody who can confirm that she ever went to these parties.

      Ramirez was uncertain that it was Kavanaugh who flashed her at a party (and it sounds like there’s a large email record involving her querying classmates as to whether they remember more clearly than she does).

      You don’t need to blacken Ford’s reputation to question whether her story is consistent or makes sense. Mitchell’s report documents a lot of contradictions and changes in the story, and I would encourage anybody who hasn’t read the report to do so.


      Furthermore, Ford did not make her therapy notes from 2012 available to the Judiciary Committee, and there seem to be some additional contradictions present in those notes. The fragments of those notes that are available suggest that Ford’s story has changed significantly over time.

      The media behaved extremely poorly during the Kavanaugh hearings, seeming to throw all standards of evidence, common sense and basic fairness out the window. I normally never vote during mid-terms (and frankly, I’m not wild about Ted Cruz personally), but I’m going to get myself to the polls and vote a straight Republican ticket this year. This will be the first time in my life I’ve ever voted outside a presidential election year.


      1. “The media behaved extremely poorly during the Kavanaugh hearings, seeming to throw all standards of evidence, common sense and basic fairness out the window. I normally never vote during mid-terms (and frankly, I’m not wild about Ted Cruz personally), but I’m going to get myself to the polls and vote a straight Republican ticket this year. ”

        This makes no sense. The media behaved poorly so you’re voting Republican? What does one have to do with the other?


  3. My white suburban wife was consumed with the whole thing, and it brought back anger about aggressive sex pushes from guys when she was younger. That wasn’t a gain for the Dems, though, because she is already on that train, regular voter, etc. The thing which I think should make the Dems wake up with the cold shivers, though, is https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/why-black-men-relate-brett-kavanaugh/572776/
    the question of whether their support in the African American community gets squishy. Wanetta Gibson, Ruby Bates, Victoria Price – these are names to conjure with. As a parent of college boys, you can get MY attention with the names Emma Sulkowitz, Jacqueline Coakley, Crystal Mangum. My guess is that moods are very labile, and may well shift a lot in the next couple of weeks, so it’s hard to guess what the impact will be. But it’s quite dangerous for both parties.


  4. I get so confused why people have backed off being outraged about all the lying Kavanaugh did to Congress about things he did as an employed adult lawyer. The teenage sexual assault story is absolutely plausible to me but I can imagine a principled person saying they fundamentally didn’t care about anything a highschooler (or college student, counting the Ramirez stuff) did as long as it didn’t lead to a contemporaneous arrest. But the way the Judiciary Committee skated by all the lying about whether he’d lied to Congress in the past about his knowledge of the materials stolen from Senate Democrats, and which judicial confirmations he’d been involved in, and his knowledge of the warrantless surveillance programs, and his knowledge of the ‘enhanced interrogation’/torture program is just baffling to me.


    1. Of course, the only people who were listening were the four or five senators who had any potential of shifting their votes, and Kavanaugh had, not surprisingly, perfected the art of non-answers, evasions, and misleading statements that gave them the cover they needed.


    2. Eliz, I think the points you make are all good and relevant to whether Kavanaugh ought have been confirmed. And I think they were wholly shadowed, obscured by the sex allegations, and when the Reeps reacted against the sex allegations the other stuff was in eclipse, would have had more effect than it did if the sex assault story had not been out there. Kavanaugh was quite clearly a lot more partisan than a justice ought to be.
      Ford’s teen sex assault story has a lot of problems – the stuff Trump was mocking, the transparent lies about fear of flying and the second front door – for me they made Ford into the new Jacqueline Coakley. And Swetnick! I have BEEN a high school boy, and NO college girls came to our parties. None, never. Obviously, you assess the truth of this stuff differently, but trying to use it seems to me to have been a disaster for the Dems, with the Senate now utterly out of reach and the House gains likely to lead to a small rather than a large Dem majority.


      1. dave s. said,

        “the transparent lies about fear of flying”

        I have the more charitable reading that her lawyer may have been lying to her/keeping her in the dark about negotiations with the Judiciary Committee.

        See also the fact that Ford said she wasn’t told that committee investigators could come out to her in CA, so she didn’t need to get on a plane at all.

        I have side eye for the part of the story where Ford is almost raped by 2 of the only 4 guys present at a small party and Ford leaves without scooping up her close female friend on her way out, given that her close female friend would have been the only girl left at that point. How could you be any kind of friend and leave your friend in that situation?

        Also, people think that her female friend would not remember the event (because nothing bad happened to her), but wouldn’t you be likely to bring it up later if your good friend from school suddenly ditched you at a small party with only boys from a different school? That’s the sort of socially awkward event that would stick in the mind.

        Looking back over the Mitchell report:

        –Ford’s description of the timing of the incident went from “mid-80s” to “early 80s” to “summer of 1982.” Mid-80s is obviously problematic for an event that happened in 1982. (page 2 of Mitchell report)
        –Ford describes the incident as happening in her “late teens” during individual therapy in 2013 and then eventually it’s an event that happened when she was 15 (page 2)
        –Her female friend who was supposedly at the party says she does not know Kavanaugh.
        –Nobody but Ford has any recollection of a party like this happening–Kavanaugh, Judge, Keyser (the female friend), and Patrick Smyth (who is not accused of any wrong-doing) all deny that any such party involving that group of people ever happened.
        –Ford’s description of who was at the party has changed over time.
        –The number of boys in the bedroom is different in the therapist’s notes (4), as opposed to the version of the story she testified to (2).
        –This might be therapist error, but it is concerning…
        –Ford refused to provide her therapist’s notes to the committee, although portions of the notes were shared with the media.
        –Mitchell makes the very interesting point that Ford says she struggled academically in college, but said no such thing about her last two years of high school (see page 5), which would have been the two years after the alleged assault. Here, I’d point out that both this fact, and her previous statements about her assault happening in her late teens and the mid-80s. There’s a whole second scenario possible from Ford’s previous statements, where Ford was assaulted 2+ years later, presumably by a different person or persons than in the Kavanaugh version of her story–because two years later, Ford and Kavanaugh would probably have been moving in completely different circles.

        So no, you don’t need to assassinate Ford’s character to doubt her story–you just look at the story itself. Likewise, you don’t need to be some kind of monster to believe that Ford’s story is unreliable–the fact that Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham (extremely moderate Republicans) went to bat for Kavanaugh and that an experienced sex crimes prosecutor found the story shaky should be a tip-off that the Ford story was in fact weak and contradictory.


      2. the transparent lies about fear of flying and the second front door

        When I called Kavanaugh a liar, I did it because I compared his words on the record to Congress to documentary evidence. I’m not sure why you’re calling Dr. Blasey Ford a liar on those points, but it is a contemptible thing to do and I think less of you for it


      3. The discrepancy between Ford’s testimony regarding flying and her actual behavior is described in Rachel Mitchell’s memorandum. https://www.axios.com/brett-kavanaugh-rachel-mitchell-prosecutor-memo-2c3233cc-1d42-416b-af04-02700aa9a711.html The discrepancies in her account of the second door are set forth here. https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2018/10/02/building_documents_undermine_fords_exit_door_account.html It is possible to go through life considering large numbers of your fellow citizens too contemptible to be worth understanding, but you poison your soul by so doing, so I don’t recommend.


      4. Here’s another oddity:

        Let’s say you’re Leland Keyser (the other girl at the party). It’s the two girls and four boys. Your female friend Ford (the only other girl at the party) goes upstairs and then Kavanaugh and Judge disappear upstairs after her, leaving you alone downstairs with the two other boys. (AWKWARD!) Some time later, Kavanaugh and Judge come down and then a while later, Ford comes down the stairs and leaves the house without her friend Keyser.

        In Keyser’s shoes, don’t you have some questions after that very odd sequence of events?

        And yet Keyser doesn’t remember the party at all and denies ever meeting Brett Kavanaugh.


      5. I see nobody wants to go to bat to defend Julie Swetnick’s credibility.


        “Legal documents show 3rd woman to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct was involved in at least 6 lawsuits over the last 25 years”

        “Some of these cases include telling her former employer that she had a degree from John Hopkins University when she didn’t, accusations of making “unwanted sexual innuendo” at her former workplace, and suing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority on the grounds that a fall she had on a train cost her a lucrative modeling gig.”

        (There was no lucrative modeling gig.)

        “Julie Swetnick, one of the women who has publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, has an extensive history of involvement in legal disputes, including a lawsuit in which an ex-employer accused her of falsifying her college and work history on her job application.”

        tldr; Julie Swetnick has spent most of her adult life telling whoppers.


  5. The white women in my social circle are, mostly, pro-choice, roe supporting progressives anyway, and thus, weren’t moved in their voting choices. They are more likely to bring out their charge cards (as was I — I donated to several campaigns during the Kavanaugh hearing). But, I have been surprised to see women who don’t wear their political leanings as publicly as I (or many of my friends, white and non-white) do speak up, including ones who are the mothers of teen boys. Truly surprised — I would not have expected many of these women to opine publicly on Facebook.

    I think we are at near civil war style divisions in the country now — nearly half of both Republicans & Democrats say they feel like “like a stranger in [their] own land”: “Estranged in America: Both Sides Feel Lost and Left Out


    “The moment now reminds her [Stephanie McCurry] of the 1850s, when Northerners and Southerners were locked in a morally imbued fight over the nature of American values — and whether America was at its core a slave-owning society. Many Northerners were horrified by the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which effectively declared the United States such a place. Southerners were horrified by Northerners’ reaction to it, Ms. McCurry said.”

    With this level of balance and antagonism, I think outcomes are wholly unpredictable, and, they are certainly unpredictable by me. I don’t think I have any conservative Republican friends and if I did, our friendship would be altered by that knowledge, as, I imagine, I would have felt if I were an abolitionist interacting with a slave owner in the 1850’s (though to cast myself in that world is impossible, in any fundamental way).


    1. You should get out more. Maybe meet Laura’s parents, the pro-life activists. Obviously you couldn’t be friends with monsters like that, but maybe you could be civil for a brief period.


    2. “I don’t think I have any conservative Republican friends and if I did, our friendship would be altered by that knowledge, as, I imagine, I would have felt if I were an abolitionist interacting with a slave owner in the 1850’s (though to cast myself in that world is impossible, in any fundamental way).”

      I think it’s really sad you feel that way. I have a lot of conservative twitter ladies I like. Here’s one:


      Bethany Mandel, Orthodox Jewish convert, helped convict creepy voyeur Orthodox rabbi (long story), mom of three, just left NJ for DC, instant pot queen, etc. She wrote this very good piece on how to weigh accusations of sexual misconduct from the distant past:


      “After the Roy Moore debacle, I set a personal standard for how I judge decades-old allegations. Do we have:

      “Credible accusers
      A pattern of behavior established over multiple accusers
      A specific date and time of an incident
      Is it possible to pinpoint the two parties were together at that time and date?
      Has the story about the incident remained the same over time, or changed?
      Is there any physical evidence the two parties knew each other? A photo or a signed yearbook, for example?
      Did the victim tell anyone at the time about the alleged incident? Can the person they told verify those claims, and is that third-party credible?
      Is there any contemporaneous evidence that can be offered by the accuser? A journal entry, a letter?”

      Mandel thinks that Roy Moore’s accusers met those standards, but that Kavanaugh’s didn’t.

      We have a huge problem in that we do not have a public standard of the sort that Mandel outlines, so a lot of us are falling back on the convenient heuristic of “my guy is innocent, your guy is guilty.”

      Jonah Goldberg is also very good, as are many of the writers at National Review.

      There are a lot of bright, fair, honest conservatives out there–and if you can’t find any decent conservatives and believe there isn’t such a thing, and that no conservatives have anything worth listening to, that says a whole lot more about you than about them.

      With regard to Krugman’s they-don’t-have-power-so-why-listen-to-them–here’s my objection. We’re talking about truth and the nature of reality, so yes, it does make sense to listen to people even when they don’t have power if we want to know what is true and false and how things work. Knowing what is true and false is important, and it’s impossible to improve things in the real world if one’s ideas about the nature of the world and one’s political opponents are wildly fantastical.


  6. I still have trouble keeping in mind just how corrupt these shits are. There’s scandals that would have run the news for weeks that aren’t even getting front page coverage because the president is literally market-testing murder excuses for a foreign government that uses his hotels.


  7. This was interesting in a nuts-and-bolts way:


    (1) Trump in November 2016 was the earthquake, everything since then has been aftershocks.
    (2) Educated, white, suburban women started organizing early in 2017 and haven’t slowed since.
    (3) The organizing is happening in support of Democrats, but often outside of party structures, which have atrophied at the local level in many places. (“As Reynolds tried to explain to a party strategist aggrieved that the party’s online calling tools went unused, ‘My friends won’t make calls for you. They’ll make calls for me.'”)
    (4) The effects could be huge. “Pennsylvania Together has identified more than 60 candidates who ran for local or municipal office in this state with new local groups’ support in November 2017. Most were first-time candidates; more than half were women; four out of five won. That last fact is all the more striking because the candidates were often running in places presumed to be so heavily Republican that Democrats hadn’t fielded campaigns there in recent memory. In Chester County, a large exurban and rural county west of Philadelphia, Democratic candidates swept row offices that Republicans had carried with an average 17-point margin of victory in 2015. School boards and township councils that had not had Democratic members in decades now do: sometimes, in the majority.” Emphasis added.


  8. Yes, I’ve seen first hand how suburban democratic women are organizing. It is impressive. I’ve gone to some of their meetings and follow their progress on Facebook. It’s a little rough right now. Their methods, like giving their children potty-mouthed signs “FUCK THE PATRIARCHY,” don’t seem particularly effective or sophisticated. Yet. Maybe this is just baby-steps of a movement. It’s interesting to watch from the sidelines. When they step it up another level, I might join them.


    1. I’ve forgotten where it is in the Post, but their coverage of the Virginia elections in 2017 was really good. I particularly remember an article about a pro organizer who came down and had to figure out how to deal with all the different groups that had sprung up. Basically she decided to let them all do their various things, and help out a bit here and their. Her candidate won by a large margin, and the House of Delegates turned over, what, roughly a third in one election? Given our rate of incumbent victories that would make many an old Politburo blush, that’s a big change.


    2. I did postcard writing with a bunch of 50-year-old teachers (LOL, these are my PEOPLE) last week, and no one was saying Fuck the Patriarchy. 😀 There was mostly a lot of complaining about all the testing, and I got to share a memorable thing a middle-school teacher once told me: “We weigh them and we weigh them, but when do we ever feed them?”


  9. Civility can go fuck itself. Trump is bragging about a Gianforte sucker punching a reporter like a cheap shot is some kind of accomplishment while covering for Saudi Arabia murdering a reporter and not one Republican in Congress seems to feel any of this is enough to maybe see who’s staying at Trump’s hotels and where else he might be getting money.


    1. The reporter’s murder is such a weird thing. He was a Muslim Brotherhood supporter and opposed the relaxing of restrictions on women. His murder seems to have made the Crown Prince’s position more precarious within Saudi Arabia. So is this an internal struggle? And it was carried out so stupidly. In the embassy? Weird.


      1. He was not. The conservative echo chamber is doing its usual defamation of anyone who is hurting Trump’s funding. It’s really horrifying to watch this happening to America.


      2. “He was a Muslim Brotherhood supporter”

        Oh yay. The right-wing smear machine is just as successful as ever.


      3. So, the Brookings Institution is right wing? Hmm, never knew that…


        Yes, Jamal Khashoggi had many friends among the Muslim Brotherhood and, as his colleague David Ignatius
        reported days after his disappearance, had joined the movement himself as a young man before apparently shifting away from it later in his career. No one who knew Jamal at all is surprised by these facts, no matter with what lurid framing they are now “revealed.” Whatever sympathies and associations he may have had, they do not change the apparent fact that Jamal Khashoggi was kidnapped, murdered, and dismembered to silence his freedom of expression. Those on the right who have spent decades
        fighting for free speech on campus will leap to tell you, correctly, that freedom of speech demands respect regardless of the political valance of the views espoused—and that protecting the expression of unpopular views that challenge current political correctness is the acid test for the security of this right overall. So even if you believe that Jamal Khashoggi was a full-bore Brotherhood member with an agenda of Islamization for the Arab world, you should still condem his apparent assassination for the crime of speaking his mind.

        For me, always, the touchstone is, would I send young men from Iowa to die for either side?

        In this case, the answer is, No.

        I also have no faith in any of the reports from either side (Turkey, Saudi Arabia) that they may be telling truth.

        The most effective lie has elements of truth. But still, I’m not willing to send young men to die for this, even if the alleged victim lived in DC and worked for the Post.


      4. Cranberry said,

        “The most effective lie has elements of truth. But still, I’m not willing to send young men to die for this, even if the alleged victim lived in DC and worked for the Post.”

        You don’t need to send young men to die for this.

        Minimally, you just need to not sell arms to the Saudis until they straighten up and fly right. What that needs to look like is a trickier question–but it’s very, very easy to shut down the arms pipeline.


      5. For me, always, the touchstone is, would I send young men from Iowa to die for either side?

        I really have no idea where that is coming from. Literally no one is calling for killing, or even beating, anybody who isn’t a journalist (unfortunately, Trump, the Saudi prince, Erdogan are all doing that). The only way to avoid war is to let foreign policy be dictated by whatever country spends most at the president’s hotels and keeps his son-in-law solvent?

        I have no great faith in Erdogan myself, but the Saudi story is an obvious lie (you can’t say that Khashoggi left and then say that he was killed in a fight without telling at least one huge lie) and that the Saudi response switched from denial to really stupid lies only makes sense if they know Turkey has evidence. Plus, if there’s no body and it wasn’t a deliberate murder, that would mean the Saudi consulate just happens to have on hand everything needed to make a body disappear, which isn’t exactly reassuring.

        I’m thinking the clearest way to avoid having young men from Iowa die is for the United States to chart a reasonable foreign policy with some consistency (among other things that would require appointing an actual ambassador to Saudi Arabia) and reassuring allies that are democratic that the United States won’t turn their back on them to support dictators (like Trump did this summer when Canada was threatened and sanctioned by Saudi Arabia for asking that a human rights activist be released).


      6. Minimally, you just need to not sell arms to the Saudis until they straighten up and fly right. What that needs to look like is a trickier question–but it’s very, very easy to shut down the arms pipeline.

        It should be, but I think the whole of the tanglible response is just going to be Lindsey Graham shouting. Trump really hates Iran and not arming the Saudis/assisting them in Yemen will be seen as too pro-Iran. Plus, the Saudi’s business is the only thing keeping Trump’s hotels in the black. Plus, Trump hates the Washington Post.

        In theory, Congress could do something easily, but in practice, the current Republicans in Congress are more far more deferential to the president than is usual even when the president is of the same party.


Comments are closed.