If there was one thing local supporters and opponents of Brett Kavanaugh could agree on Saturday, it was that his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court would galvanize their political allies to show up at the polls this fall.
The sexual assault allegations levied against Kavanaugh and Congress’ handling of them have laid bare the deep political divide in metro Atlanta and across the nation in recent weeks.
That rift continued to be on display Saturday as voters from Atlanta to Cumming discussed Kavanaugh’s expected confirmation to the high court, which became official with a 50-48 vote in the Senate.
For Paul Stykitus, the vote was long overdue.
“I think the Kavanaugh nonsense has just turned any fair-minded individual to say, ‘enough’s enough,’” said the 69-year-old sales director from Cumming.
Stykitus was on hand for a canvass launch event that morning at the Forsyth County GOP headquarters. It was there that Patrick Bell, the local party chairman, predicted that Democrats’ opposition to Kavanaugh would “backfire” in November, citing the headline-grabbing antics of protesters who chased Ted Cruz out of a restaurant and confronted other GOP senators outside their Capitol Hill offices and at a D.C. airport.
Many GOP voters who had not been paying much attention to politics until recently, he said, “are fed up with everything, and I think that the mob rule is bringing them out,” Bell said. “They’re tired of it.”
Midterm elections typically aren’t kind to the party in power, and Democrats had already been fired up in their united opposition to President Donald Trump even before Kavanaugh was confirmed.
Local Democrats vowed to keep the fight going at a rally in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park on Saturday morning that drew more than 100 people.
“We are going to get so damn engaged in the political process in this country they’re not going to know what hit them,” said state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, who spoke on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. “We will win.”
Tarece L. Johnson of the social justice coalition the Alliance for Black Lives also spoke at the anti-Kavanaugh event. She said the Democratic voters who sat out of the 2016 elections “now understand the impact of not voting.”
“The Senate (procedural) vote yesterday showed us that our voices were not heard,” she said. “Nevertheless, we must persist against and resist all forms of hatred.”
Recent polling shows a stark deep gender and party divide surrounding Kavanaugh. An Oct. 1 survey of likely Georgia voters from Landmark Communications found that 90 percent of Republicans supported the judge’s confirmation, with 90 percent of Democrats opposed.
The survey, which was taken days before the FBI completed its investigation of the sexual assault allegations levied against Kavanaugh, also found that while about 56 percent of Georgia men supported him, only 43 percent of women in the state said the same thing.
Georgia’s two Republican U.S. senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, both announced their plans to vote for Kavanaugh ahead of the weekend vote. They said they did not see enough corroborating evidence from any of the three women who had publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault to disqualify him from the high court.
Both senators were deluged with messages from constituents on both sides of the issue in recent weeks, and their Atlanta offices were visited by picketers. While Isakson steered clear of blaming Democrats for any of the discord, Perdue excoriated the party for inciting protesters he saw as overzealous.
“These are the tactics of the brownshirts in Germany in the 1930s,” Perdue said, comments he later apologized for after being rebuked by a local Jewish group.
“When the paid activists who support you attack my wife, you have gone too far. You are inciting this disrespect of our law,” he added.
Earlier in the week, Perdue and his wife were cornered at a northern Virginia airport by liberal activists who implored him not to ignore the pleas of sexual assault survivors who opposed Kavanaugh.
For Stephanie Smith, who attended the Woodruff Park event with the labor rights group We Dream In Black, Kavanaugh’s confirmation sent a clear message that will have a long-term impact.
“It shows disrespect to women,” said Smith, a 33-year-old childcare provider from Durham, N.C. “Women are people and women definitely are going to feel like they don’t have respect and dignity at the Supreme Court.”
Kelli Warren, president of the Republican Women of Forsyth County, saw things much differently.
“To me, the most important thing is the presumption of innocence,” she said. “With (accuser Christine Blasey) Ford, where were her witnesses? … And I say that being the mother of a daughter who recently, I found out, is a victim of domestic violence.”
“I’m totally empathetic to that situation,” Warren added, “but we can’t persecute or blame someone if we don’t have proof behind it.”
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