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Will sexual assault charge against Kavanaugh help Democrats in the Midterms?

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Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s recent allegation that SCOTUS nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, attempted to rape her at a house party in a Maryland suburb 36 years ago when she was fifteen stopped his confirmation process in its tracks, causing the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay this Thursday’s vote. Instead it will hold a hearing (public or private – their choice) on Monday September 24th. So far, Dr. Ford has declined to appear unless the FBI first does a background investigation of the purported crime. President Trump, Sen. Grassley, and other Republican leaders have declined her request, stating that if Dr. Ford does not appear, it will be time to vote.

Yet there is likely to be a residual carryover of female voters’ concerns about this incident irrespective as to whether Dr. Ford testifies or not. In this age of #MeToo, there is an incandescent anger among women over the sexual harassment and assaults that they have been subjected to over the years, and they are preparing to strike back at the voting booths. As in 1991, during the Atty. Anita Hill-Judge Clarence Thomas controversy, during his confirmation for SCOTUS, over whether he had sexually harassed her while she worked on his staff, this contemporary replay will likely have a similar impact. A year later, the largest number of women in the history of the country was elected to federal office.

The Democratic base – teachers (who are mostly women), young people, minorities, and Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) groups–have been energized by the noxious policies and behavior of Trump to turnout during primaries and will be pivotal in the midterms. Also, specific races could break all voting records among the aforementioned groups, flipping Republican seats into Democratic hands.

Georgia could be the centerpiece of Democratic takeover of the House in the gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams, formerly the minority leader in the state legislature and the first African American female to serve as the Democratic nominee for governor in any state. Her opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was endorsed by Trump and has launched his campaign with a series of racist dog whistles, has been a motivator for the Democratic base and for a modest segment of white moderates and Independents to move toward Abrams.

In a state that is rapidly changing in its demographic makeup, she has mobilized African American female voters, who have turned out and voted Democratic in exponential numbers in a variety of states ensuring Democratic victories. Her organization on the ground parallels that of Andrew Gillum the first black to win Florida’s Democratic nomination for governor. His victory over a Florida political dynasty was predicated on a superior get out the vote (GOTV) strategy. That approach is being replicated in Maryland by the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Ben Jealous, who is up against a popular Republican incumbent. He is doubling down on his field operations to give himself an edge.

But even with this growing Democratic enthusiasm and success in the primaries, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other Democratic leaders have still not developed a coordinated strategy to collectively reach out to and nurture its base. In the interim, the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party has set its own agenda for winning races. There does not appear to be a political bridge to bring the two sides together.

Regular Democrats appear to be unwilling to compromise on key Progressive concerns: Medicare for all and free public college tuition. And the newly anointed Progressive leaders, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Ayanna Pressley (MA) in House races are, are not backing down. And there has been only modest focus on public school teachers in Red states since their strikes in the spring which led to major concessions from Republican-controlled legislatures. These natural building blocks for voter registration and GOTV have been overlooked and/or ignored.

Hopefully, the Democratic Party makes the necessary adjustments in the next 50 days to secure the victory that is being handed to them on a blue platter.

Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina CH and as Professor of Educational Policy at the University of Wisconsin.

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