In Huntsville, Ala., mom Vickie Freeman had wept for joy as she watched Brett Kavanaugh testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And now that he’s been confirmed as the country’s 114th Supreme Court justice, she has a name for herself and other Republican moms galvanized by the tense and partisan confirmation process.
“We are the ‘Mama Bears,’ absolutely,” Freeman told The Post. “And it has really fired us up to vote.”
The bruising Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings fueled feminist fury and Democrat disgust across the country — but the hearings also gave the GOP, and Republican mothers in particular, a sense of righteous anger that could turn midterm congressional races red.
Especially in heartland red states, Republicans who are mad about the way Kavanaugh was treated could make the difference for the GOP as it tries to keep control of the House and Senate.
“Nothing turns Republicans of all stripes — whether they’re Bush Republicans or Trump Republicans — on like a court fight,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News on Saturday.
The Democrats “played right into our hands, in retrospect,” he crowed. “Maybe I ought to say thank you.”
An NPR-Marist poll last week found that the Democrats’ “enthusiasm gap” has all but evaporated in the heat of the confirmation battle.
Republican enthusiasm has surged by 12 percentage points since July, the survey found, leaving the two parties statistically tied.
GOP turnout could hinge in large part on a contingent that could be called the “Mama Bears” — women who defend Kavanaugh and fear their sons could fall victim to unfounded allegations in the #MeToo age.
The allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh have riled women nationwide — but their anger, it turns out, goes both ways.
A poll taken after the nation heard Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh, followed by his impassioned denial, found 55 percent of women opposed his elevation to the Supreme Court, but 37 percent were in favor.
On Staten Island, the Kavanaugh hearings outraged Angie Moore.
“The minute a conservative gets accused, it’s like due process goes out the window,” she said.
In Missouri, where Democrat Claire McCaskill is running for re-election, 47 percent of female voters have told pollsters her opposition to Kavanaugh has turned them against her, while 42 percent approve of her “no” vote.
“We are watching someone be declared guilty without proof,” Kelly Melang of Beech Mountain, NC, told her two teen boys.
“We try our best to raise them to be respectful and honorable,” she added. “But we’ve had to sit them down and tell them, you have to watch your back.”
“I fear for my sons,” said Gayle Chasen of Staten Island. “I believe in women’s rights, but I also believe in the deviousness of girls. Anybody can come up with something from the past and just make up any kind of story.”
Some moms took to social media to declare they’d bought calendars for their sons to record their daily activities, just in case they have to one day defend themselves as Kavanaugh did.
“It’s so terrifying,” Freeman said of her 15-year-old son. “I’m not giving him a calendar. I’m just thinking about not letting him go anywhere.”
Freeman, who calls herself a Christian conservative, said the controversy has sharply boosted voter enthusiasm in her community before Election Day.
“We were not Trump supporters initially, but we voted for him because of the Supreme Court,” she said. “So we have to make sure our voices are heard.”
Chasen, a Democrat “still on the fence” about the coming elections, is livid about the tactics her party used in its effort to take Kavanaugh down.
“What an embarrassment,” she said, citing the sex scandals of Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer. “How dare they badger this guy?” she asked. “They’re all dirty.”
Kellyanne Conway sees no reason as to why newly-confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh should be viewed as “tainted” — and thinks many American women see some version of their loved ones in him.
Conway, a counselor to the president, dropped by “This Week” on ABC Sunday morning to weigh in on Kavanaugh’s confirmation, which came Saturday following a tumultuous investigation into allegations of sexual assault.
“Justice Kavanaugh should not be seen as tainted,” she said. “He should be seen as somebody who went through seven FBI investigations … had answered 1,200 written questions, had produced about a million pages of documents, submitted himself to about 33 or 35 hours of sworn testimony to the Senate, including denying the allegations that were put before him.”
Conway added that she believed Democrats wanted the country to see Kavanaugh as a “gang rapist.”
“A lot of women, including me, in America, looked up and saw a man who was … a political character assassination,” she said. “And also, we looked up and saw in him possibly our husbands, our sons, our cousins, our co-workers, our brothers.”
Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month regarding allegations that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford at a house party in high school in the early ’80s. Ford testified as well.
Conway said all involved, including President Trump and the committee, were “very respectful” to Ford in allowing her voice to be heard, and that the scrutiny of Kavanaugh rivals only that of Clarence Thomas, who faced similar allegations in the early ’90s.
“There’s been no Supreme Court justice in the history of this country that’s been more picked apart, with the possible exception of Clarence Thomas, who is in his 27th year on the bench,” Conway said.
“I think what Justice Kavanaugh should do is what he’s done for 12 years on the second-highest court in the land, having authored over 300 judicial opinions. He should go to work. He should do his job.”
Shortly after Ford testified Sept. 27, Conway revealed she, too, was a victim of sexual assault. The Republican had previously told Fox News that Ford “should not be ignored and should not be insulted. She should be heard.”
Even The Atlantic reported this last week:
When many conservative women around the country watched Christine Blasey Ford appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, they didn’t find her testimony compelling or convincing, as many liberals did.
They saw a political farce.
“Honestly, I don’t think I have ever been so angry in all of my adult life,” says Ginger Howard, a Republican national committeewoman from Georgia. “It brings me to the point of tears, it makes me so angry.”
In interviews with roughly a dozen female conservative leaders from as many states, this was the overwhelming sentiment: These women are infuriated with the way the sexual-assault allegations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have been handled. They are not convinced by Ford or any other woman who has come forward. They resent the implication that all women should support the accusers. And they believe that this scandal will ultimately hurt the cause of women who have been sexually assaulted.
Above all, these women, and the women they know, are ready to lash out against Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.
Nearly all the women I spoke with are plugged into state- and local-level conservative politics. Their collective, overwhelming sense is that, like Howard, women voters are angry about what’s happening to Kavanaugh. “I’ve got women in my church who were not politically active at all who were incensed with this,” says Melody Potter, the chairwoman of the West Virginia Republican Party—the first woman to hold that position, she made sure to point out. In her state, the stakes of the Kavanaugh scandal are immense: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is fighting for his seat in a place where more than two-thirds of voters supported Donald Trump in 2016. With voters “energized” to elect people “who are going to support President Trump,” Potter says, West Virginians are closely watching how Manchin acts on Kavanaugh—especially now that the situation has become so politicized.
Organizers in other states say they’ve been hearing the same thing. “People in Indiana are angry. They are mad. They are changing their mind,” says Jodi Smith, the Indianapolis-based state director for the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List. When Senator Joe Donnelly, another vulnerable Democrat who is up for reelection in November, declared late last week that he would vote against Kavanaugh, it “started a firestorm of epic proportions,” Smith says. From her perspective on the ground in a highly contested swing state, “this is one of the best things that could happen to us.”It’s not yet clear whether the Kavanaugh affair will work to the GOP’s advantage; recent polling has not conclusively shown what women, for example, think about these allegations. “If the Republicans don’t get it together and make sure that he gets in there, that’s not going to help us,” says Howard, the Georgia RNC official. “What makes me mad at times about our party is we don’t stand up enough and say, ‘Enough of your shenanigans! We’re not putting up with this!’” And with the full Senate vote delayed and a supplemental FBI investigation under way, it’s not certain that Kavanaugh’s nomination will ultimately be successful.
But if Kavanaugh is confirmed, Howard says, “that will fire up the base even more to say, ‘Look at what a fight we had on our hands.’”
The women I interviewed are, for the most part, committed conservatives. In a controversy that has been so deeply politicized, it isn’t necessarily surprising that they’re skeptical of Ford, a woman who was guided by Senate Democrats like Dianne Feinstein, and who may hurt Republican interests. But they all asserted that their convictions—and their disgust—go beyond their partisan commitments.
“I believe, with every fiber of my being, that he is telling the truth,” Howard says. “Not just because I’m conservative, and not just because I’m Republican. I believe that he is telling the truth.”
A big source of conservative women’s anger about Kavanaugh seems to come from a fundamental sense of unfairness: They believe Kavanaugh was convicted in the court of public opinion before he ever had a chance to defend himself. Howard told me that every cable-news network seemed strongly biased against the judge: She was watching NBC at a work event, and “the anchors … were just praising this woman like she was the next Rosa Parks or something,” she says. “I mean, I was screaming at the TV.”
Last week’s hearing was not part of a criminal investigation, “but you sure wouldn’t know that from watching,” says Smith, the Indiana activist. The 62-year-old calls herself “a Mike Pence girl to the max”; she got involved in political advocacy after she finished homeschooling her five kids. “The presumption of innocence … is something I taught my children,” she told me. But she, along with other women, thinks that privilege has not been afforded to Kavanaugh. “The media and the Democrats have totally flipped the narrative,” as Howard put it. Kavanaugh “is guilty until proven innocent.”