Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
The fight over Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh was supposed to be about a seat on the Supreme Court.
But the past two weeks have transformed that discrete political battle into something far larger: A simmering war of the sexes that’s deepening the divide between Democratic women and Republican men.
These are tensions that have been mounting since before the 2016 campaign. Political scientists have found that over the last decade or so, support for feminism, from both men and women, has been increasingly correlated with support for Democrats.
The battle over Judge Kavanaugh is perhaps our starkest reflection of that new political reality.
Let’s think through these new dynamics with a little thought experiment:
• A prominent Democratic woman becomes the front-runner for the nomination in 2020. How do her male rivals attack her? How do they convince female voters that they’re a better face for the party?
• This same woman wins the nomination. She’s up against President Trump. How does that contest become anything but a circus?
• A woman comes forward with a highly credible accusation of sexual abuse against a top political leader. It’s true. Who has the credibility to litigate that, politically? And can you convince Republicans?
• A woman comes forward with a highly credible accusation of sexual abuse. It’s not true. Who has the credibility to litigate that? And can you convince Democrats?
In a twist that will surprise no one, both Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton addressed the confirmation battle in public appearances today, just an hour or so apart. (Yes, we’re all caught in an episode of Black Mirror where we can never, ever escape the 2016 election. Just accept it. It’s easier that way.)
When asked by reporters if he had a message for men, Mr. Trump said:
“It’s a very scary time for young men in America, when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of. This is a very, very — this is a very difficult time. What’s happening here has much more to do than even the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.”
It’s an argument — articulated loudly during last week’s hearing by Senator Lindsey Graham — that has been gaining traction in the Republican Party since Mr. Trump’s win. We know from polling that a higher percentage of Trump backers believe white men face discrimination.
Mrs. Clinton had a different take, one that reflects the thinking of many in her party.
“I think what is happening is that on many many fronts, women, young women and girls, are saying, ‘You have to hear our stories, too. We have the right to be heard,’” she said, speaking at an event hosted by The Atlantic magazine. “I don’t see it so much as some kind of conflict, as finally righting the balance.”
Many women found something deeply recognizable in Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. They are sharing their own experiences of sexual assault — and becoming more radical in how they’re doing so, as seen the video of the confrontation with Senator Jeff Flake last week.
Judge Kavanaguh’s approval ratings are sinking — a decline attributable to independent women.
Meanwhile, the F.B.I. is investigating, trying to figure out what actually happened on that summer night so many decades ago. It’s hard to imagine a conclusive ending. The reality is that both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey could be telling their truths. Maybe one is misremembering what happened. Maybe one is lying. It almost doesn’t matter.
The universality of their interaction — both for men and women — has tapped into something that’s not likely to be resolved with a Senate vote.
Slacking with Fleg
We published a really great guide to the midterms today, called “Everything You Need to Know for the Midterm Elections.” But we still had questions! So we reached out to political reporter Matt Flegenheimer, who wrote the report, for more.
We talked on Slack, which is the way a lot of conversations tend to happen at The New York Times.
Lisa [12:13 PM] Hey! So we loved your election guide today. Helpful! But for real, what are the questions people ask you about the midterms? It can’t be where to vote…
Matt [12:15 PM] Only occasionally! But my knowledge is limited to northwest D.C., if that. I mean, everyone wants to know who’s going to win, right? And they want certainty, which is pretty dicey. For all the talk lamenting “horse race” coverage of politics, the question I get most often, by far, is… who’s going to win the race?
Lisa [12:17 PM] What do you tell them? I totally dodge that one. Always. After the 2016 situation, I’m SO out of the prediction business…
Matt [12:20 PM] Dodging is key. Don’t you wind up feeling like a politician sometimes? “Well, there are very compelling arguments on both sides…” I guess I try to walk people through the factors that would suggest a good year for Dems (serious intensity, an aggressive House map) and others that could boost Republicans (the strong economy, a favorable Senate map). This rarely satisfies anyone.
Lisa [12:24 PM] I am unsatisfied! The other big one I get is Will Trump Be Impeached? Typically asked with a lot of emotion/yelling. My take on that is that if Democrats win the House, the chances go up. But not much. It still seems like such a long shot, given that 2/3 of the Senate would have to vote for it.
Matt [12:26 PM] Totally. And some left-leaning readers seem to have VERY high expectations for this (and the special counsel investigation) that don’t necessarily match up with the likeliest scenario. This vision of Robert Mueller dragging Trump from the Oval in handcuffs while delivering an Aaron Sorkin monologue seems… unlikely.
Lisa [12:30 PM] I wonder if Robert Mueller is that poetic? I feel like we only ever see him walking down hallways with a very purposeful gait. Anyhow, give us one more question you get and we’ll call it an afternoon.
Matt [12:31 PM] There is poetry in meaningful walking. The specific race that everyone asks about is Texas — partly because I’ve covered it — but that’s one that really seems to have broken through well beyond the state itself. “Can Beto really win?” “Is Cruz actually sweating this?” Yes! And yes! And that should not be confused with a prediction that it’ll actually happen. #anotherdodge
Lisa [12:34 PM] Thanks, Fleg. That was fun. Let’s do it again sometime? Maybe before Nov. 6?
Matt [12:35 PM] For sure. Or we do it Nov. 7 and pretend we nailed every prediction.
Lisa [12:36 PM] Win!
The latest in the investigation
The F.B.I. is expected to finish its investigation into accusations against Judge Kavanaugh as early as Wednesday, and The Times is reporting that Republican leaders expect to vote on the nomination this week.
Here’s the latest in the ever-developing case:
• The New York Times discovered that Judge Kavanaugh was questioned by the New Haven Police Department in 1985, after he was allegedly involved in a bar fight relating to the band UB40.
• NBC News obtained text messages that suggest Judge Kavanaugh was talking to former classmates about accusations by Deborah Ramirez before they were revealed in a New Yorker article, despite testifying that he learned about them from the article.
• A new poll by Quinnipiac University found that more voters oppose Judge Kavanaugh than support him by a six-point margin. A drop among independent women was mostly responsible for the slide.
• And here’s our helpful guide to who has — and has not — been interviewed by the F.B.I.
What to read tonight
• Amazon says it will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour — a move that will affect 250,000 workers — and lobby Washington to raise the federal minimum wage. Read more here.
• The New York Times did a deep dive into President Trump’s family finances and discovered the self-proclaimed self-made mogul received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his father’s real estate empire. Read the investigation.
• A heartbreaking story of a girl preparing for life without her parents when their protected status expires next year. Read it in the Washington Post.
“I’ll take ‘Bad Moderators’ for $400.” On Monday, Alex Trebek hosted a debate in the Pennsylvania governor’s race. He was booed multiple times.
Thanks for reading. Politics is more than what goes on inside the White House. On Politics brings you the people, issues and ideas reshaping our world.
Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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