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October 4 2018

What Republican women think of Brett Kavanaugh's nomination

CBC News
featuring Carrie L. Lukas

She was a self-declared Republican "true believer," but no longer. Not after seeing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's scorched-earth testimony last week. Within three days of the hearings, she officially quit the party.

As Kavanaugh denied the sexual-misconduct allegations against him on Capitol Hill, a 30-year-old conservative operative named as an accuser in a nationally publicized sexual-assault case watched the dramatic hearings from her home three hours away in suburban Harrisburg, Pa.

"It was a disgrace," said the woman, who has accused Pennsylvania Republican state Representative Nick Miccarelli of raping her in 2014. "I just found nothing about Kavanaugh's testimony to be genuine. Nothing about it to be credible."

The woman, a political consultant who still works as a fundraiser for Republicans, withheld her name pending an investigation by the district attorney's office and her ongoing litigation. (CBC News does not identify survivors of sexual assault who don't wish to be named.)

Wide range of views on accusations

In a deeply divided United States, the loss of her support — days after Republican women supporting Kavanaugh's nomination flooded the Hart Senate Office Building in "I Stand With Brett" shirts — illustrates that even some right-leaning American women feel conflicted about who to believe.
 
In interviews around Pennsylvania, some Republican women dug in to support the judge, convinced by his emotional testimony and skeptical about Ford's. Others hedged that both were believable, but argued that the lack of corroboration for Ford's account meant Kavanaugh's confirmation should advance.

The consultant and survivor of sexual assault said there was no longer any party for her, as she became convinced that research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford was testifying truthfully when she said Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a house party in 1982.

Meanwhile, in downtown Philadelphia, Republican immigration lawyer Christine Flowers found Ford's testimony lacking.

"Credibility is based on a lot of factors," Flowers said. "If we go by just the way she presented herself, I would say no, I did not find her credible."

'I was livid'

Sitting in the campus lounge area where students at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg watched last week's Kavanaugh-Ford hearings on a drop-down projection screen, Alexa Secrest recounted what it was like for her to watch the hearings.

"I was livid," said Secrest, a member of the campus's right-leaning Young Americans for Freedom club. "I was horrified at what a charade this whole committee has become."

For the 20-year-old junior, a lack of due process is what matters in this case.

"I think that regardless of [Kavanaugh's] judicial beliefs, he should still be treated with due process and the presumption of innocence, which frankly has not been given. And I've never seen anything that has infuriated conservative women as much as this hearing has."

Campus debate

Seated across from her, Lauren Cole, a 21-year-old senior and a member of the Gettysburg College Democrats, countered that this wasn't an issue of Democrats wishing to deny Republicans any Supreme Court pick on ideological grounds. This was about serious questions of character, she felt, given the weight of the allegations levelled against someone nominated to sit on the highest court of the land.

"This is not just Democrats voting on partisan lines, but rather hearing the allegations of Dr. Ford, and saying, 'We don't want this specific person who's had four allegations of sexual assault against him,'" Cole said.

Cole reiterated a progressive talking point — that this was not meant to be a trial of Kavanaugh's peers but a job interview, with the burden on the judge to make a case for himself to be hired.

Secrest pushed back.

"It's supposed to be a job interview, but they're not treating it like that," she said. "And I do think that the way that the judiciary committee conducted the questioning, especially in regard to Kavanaugh, did make it seem like a criminal trial."

Secrest wondered: What happened to presumption of innocence?

'Scary time for young men'

A similar point has been articulated by U.S. President Donald Trump, who lamented on Tuesdayit was "a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of."

Nadine Snyder, another college Democrat sitting with Secrest and Cole, sighed at the remarks.

"It's not fair to say that it's a scary time for young men just because they're finally being held accountable for their actions," the 19-year-old sophomore said. "All of history has been a scary time for women."

Secrest didn't dispute that point.

"But I don't think that negates any difficult time that men might currently be facing."

'Culture of fear'

What worries Secrest at the moment is the promotion of a "culture of fear."

That might have already taken hold among some Republican women on campus: Some student Republicans approached who support Kavanaugh's nomination declined to be interviewed, in part because they said they might want to someday run for elected office.

Pennsylvania's Federation of Republican Women, which represents an older generation of conservatives in the state, also passed on being interviewed.

The political consultant and alleged rape survivor in Harrisburg says she knows those circles well. She wouldn't be surprised if the Kavanaugh confirmation controversy — whether he's confirmed or not — becomes politically disastrous in the midterms for the Republicans among women under 40, particularly after Trump openly mocked Ford's testimony at a recent rally.

"He's a disgrace to my country, in my opinion, and he's a disgrace to me as a survivor," the woman said. "They're going to lose conservative women under 40, no doubt in my mind."

Ford 'seemed so rehearsed'

Still, other Republican women said in phone interviews that they stand more firmly with Kavanaugh than before Ford's testimony.

In Dallas, Courtney Garcia, a 23-year-old college student and Trump supporter, said Ford's demeanour — starting with her light comments at the start of her testimony about needing caffeine — rubbed her the wrong way. Garcia felt Ford was "playing the victim role.

"It seemed so rehearsed, so staged," she said.

Kavanaugh, on the other hand, seemed genuine and believable, Garcia said.

"He looked like a pissed-off American. He was being accused of all these things but without evidence," she said.

In Indianapolis, Ericka Andersen, a conservative digital marketing director, saw Ford as a "pawn" being manipulated by Democrats in a late-game manoeuvre? to sink Kavanaugh's Supreme Court chances. But she said she sympathized with both parties.

"I believe them both. I believe Dr. Ford thinks that's what happened. I believe Brett Kavanaugh thinks that it didn't happen."

People at parties who will 'take advantage'

As for the three Gettysburg students — Snyder, Cole and Secrest — they would have been around the same age at which Kavanaugh was alleged to have engaged in rowdy drunken behaviour while at Yale, including an alleged incident in which he waved his penis at the face of a classmate, Deborah Ramirez.

Asked on Wednesday about what they may have witnessed at boozy parties at Gettysburg, the trio fell into an uneasy silence. Snyder was the first to speak. She's seen guys try to bring intoxicated girls back to their rooms, she said.

"When you throw a party, you kind of have to have your wits about you because, you know, there are people there who will take advantage of you."

Later, as the group parted ways, Secrest confided that she knew she was outnumbered as the lone Republican debating two Democrats at the student lounge, but held back from interrupting. Mainly because she didn't want to sound "overly combative" and present a negative impression of her as a Republican.

Secrest was reminded of early reactions to Kavanaugh's testimony focused on his palpable rage, at the expense of him sounding less credible to some liberal pundits.

She felt wary, she said, of being cast as "the Kavanaugh" of the group.

 


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