Midterm trends: #MeToo

The 2018 midterm elections are being shaped by a whole host of issues: President Trump, Republican unified control of Washington, immigration, healthcare and more, but one issue that has undergirded the entire midterm cycle is the #MeToo Movement.

The #MeToo Movement, a movement to help survivors of sexual violence and to advocate against sexual violence and for systems that hold perpetrators more accountable, has already made itself known on Capitol Hill, triggering the downfall of numerous representatives like John Conyers (D-Mi.), and of Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).

The dynamic is one that predates the entrance of the #MeToo Movement to the mainstream. The 2016 presidential campaign pitted the first female major party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, a man that has been accused by multiple people of sexual harassment. Female voters have always been less enamored with President Trump than their male counterparts, but the development of the #MeToo movement in October of 2017 widened that chasm.

#MeToo, which went viral after explosive reports against the media mogul Harvey Weinstein, has become a powerful social movement within the United States. It shone a bright spotlight on the depth and magnitude of the sexual predation in American society. The movement launched an intense, far-reaching and ongoing national conversation on how reprehensibly entire elements of American society has failed survivors of sexual violence and what lengths and means are best suited to ensuring it does better in the future.

Since the earliest days of #MeToo, the Democrats have largely embraced the movement – a trend evident in their primaries this election cycle. A record number of women ran in the 2018 Democratic primaries and a record number won out to be nominees in the general election Nov. 6. A historic one hundred women may serve in the House next year. The 2018 midterm cycle has been called “The Year of the Woman,” like the 1992 cycle after the Clarence Thomas hearings.

The movement has electrified Democratic voters and resulted in heightened awareness, fundraising and energy on the left, leading indisputably to a much more energized left coming into the fall of this year.

Then came the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.

During the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, he was accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault. These allegations coming late in the process infuriated congressional Republicans who accused the Democrats of attempting character assassination and for the most part Republican voters agreed. They were angered by the Democratic senators’ treatment of Kavanaugh and a negative view on the #MeToo Movement quickly gained traction to voice an opinion that the #MeToo movement has gone too far.

The hearings and the anger they generated on Kavanaugh’s behalf saw a spike in energy on the right in opposition to #MeToo. Conservatives began to become more involved and active in the midterm cycle desiring to punish the Democrats who had attempted to smear Kavanaugh in their view.

Their argument is that, in this environment, to be accused is to be convicted in the public perception and that some sense of due process in the public opinion must be established.

The president, who has been accused by at least 15 individuals of sexual harassment, has aligned his party with this view, denouncing #MeToo at a number of his rallies and declaring, “It a very scary time in America to be a young man.”

The left was quick to fire back with the abortion rights group NARAL tweeting:

Political scientists perceive that this dynamic might signal a fundamental shift in American politics. Recent polls show Trump with staggeringly low approval ratings among women voters and that women in general seem to be trending more towards the Democratic Party.

No matter which side ultimately proves to be more energized in the midterms this cycle has been defined by the #MeToo Movement and American politics may continue to be molded by this force. A common term that has increased in usage since the Kavanaugh hearings is that of a gender war. Whatever happens Nov. 6, the debate over #MeToo will continue.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Andrew Harnik and iStockphoto.

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