If you wanted to know how women coped with their anger after Thursday’s long, sad ordeal—in which Judge Brett Kavanaugh rudely and crudely denied Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he had sexually assaulted her in high school—a good place to check was the campaign trail. An unprecedented number of women are running for office in November, and many of them are riding a new wave of female rage.
Last Saturday, I found myself back at ground zero of the electoral revolt against Donald Trump: Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where a surge of female organizing (as well as buckets of money) helped newcomer Jon Ossoff almost topple conservative Republican Karen Handel in a mid-2017 special election. The effort to knock off Handel in 2018 essentially began the night she was elected, in a hotel ballroom that was supposed to host the Ossoff victory party, but instead was the site of his concession speech. “We’re not going anywhere,” said Louise Palmer, a co-founder of the local Indivisible chapter that had gone all-in with Ossoff from the beginning. Indeed, they didn’t.
This year, Palmer is working on the campaign of her friend and Indivisible partner Essence Johnson, who is running for one of the Georgia statehouse seats within the sixth district. And both women are thrilled to be supporting Handel’s 2018 opponent, Lucy McBath, the gun-sense candidate who lost her son Jordan Davis when a white man shot him for playing his music too loud, as well as historic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
At a canvassing kickoff on Saturday afternoon, host Tracy Prescott was stunned by the turnout; her grey-muzzled pug can’t decide whether to go searching out crumbs dropped from plates or hide in a bedroom away from the noisy crowd of more than 50 people.
“I started becoming active again after November 2016, behind Jon Ossoff,” says Prescott, who was hosting a canvass party for McBath in late September in the demographically dense DeKalb County section of McBath’s district. “I really liked Jon, that was a great campaign,” Prescott says. “But Lucy, I get choked up when I hear her speak.” It’s not just the way McBath talks about losing her son; it’s the movement Prescott sees behind her. “When I’m out walking for her, it’s not just moms behind her, it’s all ethnicities and age groups.”
Always philosophical, McBath sits down with me to process the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings, as her volunteers get clipboards and addresses of possible supporters they are trying get to vote for the African-American Democrat. “Women felt very assaulted, women felt very pained by the fact that there was not going to be an FBI investigation,” she said, though at the last minute the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to a one-week FBI probe. “Especially women who’ve been assaulted, who feel there’s no one fighting and championing them. That’s the reason more women have to run. We’re not just numbers and statistics—we’ve lived these experiences. It has happened so often, that women have been guilted and shamed. I think it’ll just push more women to speak out on their own personhood.”