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Mitch McConnell Thanks “These Clowns,” Meaning Rape Survivors, for Pushing the GOP to Confirm Kavanaugh

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This weekend’s cold open sketch on Saturday Night Live showed the Senate Republicans’ reaction to Brett Kavanaugh SCOTUS confirmation as a rowdy, celebratory post-game locker room scenario. As it turns out, that portrayal might not have been too far from reality.

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Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have been reveling in their post-confirmation gloating, and according to the New York Times, McConnell even told Donald Trump “we’re only at halftime,” when the president called him, concerned, during the break between Dr. Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s.

And yes, they did recover after that “halftime” break but this was no Rudy moment. The GOP was never an underdog team. They were always going to vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh was confirmed by the smallest margin in the history of the Supreme Court (50-48), highlighting just how partisan this vote was, and with Republicans in the majority, they always had the upper hand. Still, McConnell has some thoughts on who is to thank for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

According to McConnell, the protestors who came out to show their opposition to Kavanaugh pushed the Republicans to vote to confirm Trump’s pick—again, a thing they were always going to do anyway. He said of the protestors, “The tactics that were used completely backfired. Harassing members at their homes, crowding the halls with people acting horribly, the effort to humiliate us really helped me unify my conference. So I want to thank these clowns for all the help they provided.”

Who are the “clowns” he’s referring to? Well, in addition to groups like the dozens of Yale law students who traveled to Washington D.C. to protest the confirmation, a large number of protestors (and the majority of those who got media attention) were survivors of sexual assault who were determined to make their voices heard.

These women gave speeches outside the Hart Senate Office Building and inside its packed hallways, they confronted Senators in public spaces—in airports, hallways, and elevators. They left their homes, some of them traveling long distances, to relive what were potentially the most traumatic moments of their lives for a contemptuous audience of Republican senators. That’s not a fun thing for anyone. It’s incredibly courageous.

These women were aggressive in their efforts to be heard, and it’s no surprise that the lawmakers were uncomfortable. But it says everything we need to know about them that they saw women speaking about their assault as being a bigger problem than assault itself.

In a Fox News interview the night before the full Senate vote, McConnell repeatedly called the protestors a “mob,” saying they “stood up to the mob” and that they “relearned” the lesson that  “you should not allow mobs to intimidate you.” Again, that “mob” is made up largely of rape survivors and if there are so many survivors of sexual assault in this country that a small fraction of them can constitute a mob, maybe the lesson we should be taking away is that this is a very real problem that needs addressing.

Meanwhile, Christine Blasey Ford continues to live out every example of why survivors so often don’t come forward. Before she even delivered her testimony, it had been reported that Dr. Ford and her family had had to move out of their home due to threats they’d received. Now that the Senate vote has taken place and the confirmation is settled, that hasn’t changed. Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, says the threats have been “unending.”

“This has been terrifying, her family has been through a lot,” she told MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt. “They are not living at home, it’s going to be quite some time before they’re able to live at home. The threats have been unending, it’s deplorable.”

During her testimony, Dr. Ford said that leading up to her decision to go public with her accusations against Kavanaugh, she “was calculating daily the risk-benefit for me of coming forward, and wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train, that was headed to where it was headed anyway and that I would just be personally annihilated.”

These Senate Republicans have tried to reframe the narrative around sexual assault to depict survivors as being in a position of power. We saw this from Trump with his “scary time for men” comments. The only power women and other survivors have right now is that they are speaking out in larger numbers than ever before.

But we still know the risks—namely, that we will be ignored by those with actual power. Dr. Ford knew that and she did it anyway, and while the Republicans of the Senate proved her right, we are no less grateful for her decision to speak out anyway.

(image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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