Republicans Just Lost Women For Good | Opinion

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he reportedly told an aide that the Democratic Party had "lost the South for a generation."

On September 27, in a daylong, nationally televised hearing on whether accused sexual abuser Brett Kavanaugh should be put on the Supreme Court of the United States, the Republicans lost the women. But a generation will look like a short sentence and a region like the South a small setback in comparison to 52 percent of the voters in every congressional district who watched in horror and are now prepared to turn the Republicans out of office over it.

At the insistence of the Republican leadership, there was no FBI investigation. Professor Christine Blasey Ford agreed to testify and answer questions. Once she started to talk it was clear she didn't need that lie detector—we know truth when we see it. Kavanaugh then sealed his own doom. His carefully-cultivated veneer of geniality was gone, replaced by a snarling, entitled bully whom we could easily picture doing precisely what Ford described, and bragging about it in the yearbook too.

Yet the all-white, all-male Republican Senators still did not seem to understand their mistake. Apparently egged on by Kavanaugh's angry outbursts, they began trying to outdo each other with shouted indignation. They shoved aside their prop, a sex-crimes prosecutor brought in to do the dirty work of discrediting Ford. She failed at that job, and they didn't need her anymore.

A red-faced Lindsey Graham came out of his seat, shouting at 85-year old Dianne Feinstein about how unfair it was for Democrats to consider the disturbing allegations against Kavanaugh when evaluating him for a promotion. "It's the most despicable thing I have seen," Graham screamed. Feinstein hunched over, silent. Head down, gaze fixed. Waiting for it to be over.

You would have thought the GOP would have learned the lesson by now. After the Clarence Thomas hearings, women drove the election of a Democratic president, defeated in upset elections or contributed to the retirement of several of the Democrats who had voted for Thomas, and elected a record number of women to Congress. Since the ascendance of accused sexual predator Donald Trump to the presidency, the gender gap in support for the Republican Party has been the driving force in every Democratic victory and in the overwhelming dominance of the Democratic prospects in the coming midterm election.

And that was before September 27. In the interval, CNN legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin suggested a rule for predicting the outcome when women come before the mostly white male Senate. "The women," he pronounced tersely, "always lose."

When the women go to the polls, however, Toobin's rule does not apply. Women are going to hold the Republicans accountable for this grotesque spectacle at the ballot box. We do not have to accept a situation in which sexual violence is dismissed, and the perpetrators could be promoted. Indeed, a new political action committee dedicated to making violence against women a voting issue made headlines when it launched this week. The Enough is Enough Voter Project, a collaboration among women's rights organization and leaders, is specifically focusing on candidates who have been credibly accused of sexual harassment or abuse or who have failed to take those issues seriously.

Driven by the tailwind of enraged female votes, the Democrats are not only going to retake the House of Representatives, they are poised to take the Senate. Democratic candidates with any sense will run and re-run excerpts from the unflaggingly warm and polite professor and the fulminating entitled white men in every election campaign from now until November.

Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images

As for Kavanaugh, he shouldn't get too comfortable in his new sinecure. In his case, life tenure doesn't mean never having to say you're sorry. Once the women's candidates take over the United States Congress, they will be in a position to reconsider whether Brett Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court—or any court. Perhaps he will be impeached for lying at his confirmation hearings, or for the underlying misconduct allegations. Or, perhaps after 2020 Democrats will just pack the court with enough additional Justices that he will spend the rest of his life tenure writing dissenting opinions. There is of course no constitutional limit to the size of the Supreme Court. That decision is entirely in the hands of Congress and the president.

Women have already demonstrated that they will vote in large numbers to rid the judiciary of members who fail to take sexual violence seriously. In June, 62 percent of voters in Santa Clara County voted to recall Judge Aaron Persky. Persky sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to just six months in jail after a jury convicted Turner of three felonies for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a frat party. Women across the country reacted with visceral outrage to this injustice. In fact, Christine Blasey Ford reportedly told a friend in 2016 that Persky's sentence of Turner, a privileged athlete like Kavanaugh, had prompted her to disclose her own assault to him. Although there were no exit polls, polling in advance of the recall reflected a gender gap big enough to drive a recall through.

The federal bench is not set up for populist movements like the recall. But there are avenues. Kavanaugh, like Persky, can be unbenched. Women are simply not going to accept this monumentally unfit man remaining on the Court regardless of what the Republicans manage to ram through this week. Sooner or later, as Chicago newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne predicted, the Supreme Court follows the election returns.

Michele Dauber is the Frederick I. Richman professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Chair of the Enough is Enough Voter Project.

NYT Bestselling author Linda Hirshman is the author of the forthcoming Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019).

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​