Anita Hill’s testimony in Congress triggered the first “Year of the Woman” in 1992, after she accused the Republican Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her. But that wave of enthusiasm and outrage mostly elected white women.
The new allegation of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, another Republican Supreme Court nominee, comes from a white woman. But in a rapidly diversifying America, it may help Democrats elect not only more white women, but also an unprecedented number of women of color.
Long before the clinical-psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused Kavanaugh of a high-school assault, a backlash against Donald Trump had already generated signs of intense engagement among African American women and an unusually large advantage for Democratic candidates among college-educated white women.
Now the unpredictable collision over Ford’s allegation—which could culminate in televised hearings pitting a professional woman against the all-male Republican contingent on the Senate Judiciary Committee—could provide another galvanizing moment for the female voters already inflamed against Trump and the GOP. “It just feels like it’s more fuel for the fire,” the Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg says.
Democrats have positioned themselves to benefit from that energy by nominating female candidates in 183 House races, according to the Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics. That easily outdistances the previous record of 120 in 2016, and is much more than the 70 women who ran in 1992. (Republicans have nominated just 52 women in House races this year.) According to the center’s calculations, Democrats have also set records with 15 female Senate nominees (including two challengers in Nevada and Arizona who are best positioned to win GOP-held seats) and 12 gubernatorial picks.
Many of these Democratic nominees are white professional women, from lawyers and college professors to small-business owners and military veterans. That compatible profile could help solidify the loyalty of college-educated white women already recoiling from Trump’s belligerent style and history of sexual-abuse allegations: Polls now routinely show that 60 percent or more of college-educated white women prefer Democrats for Congress, the biggest share ever by far. This movement away from the GOP is likely to systematically boost the Democrats’ big field of white-women nominees, many of whom are contesting white-collar suburban districts.