“The worst thing that can ever happen to any woman or man who has been a victim is to shut them down and not listen to them,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes abortion rights. “A tragic piece of this is people who will use that pain for an agenda. That is so clearly what is happening now.”
In the days since Dr. Blasey went public in an interview with The Washington Post and alleged that, when they were both teenagers, Judge Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, clapped his hand over her mouth and groped her, Republican leaders and White House officials have urged a muted and restrained approach. Show Dr. Blasey respect; offer to hear her out; and avoid questioning her credibility, at least directly, they have agreed in private conversations.
But many conservatives see little use in being deferential when, they argue, the Democrats play by no such rules. They look back at the failed confirmation of the Republican nominee Robert Bork in 1987, whose writings on civil rights were picked over by Democrats, and the 1991 hearings for Clarence Thomas, who faced testimony from Anita Hill that he had sexually harassed her, and they see a sophisticated and ruthless Democratic machine bent on discrediting their nominees.
“Republicans are right, as a moral matter as well as a political matter, to take allegations of misbehavior like this seriously,” said Frank Cannon, president of the American Principles Project and a veteran social conservative strategist. “At the same time, we’ve seen anything and everything thrown at Republican Supreme Court nominees for decades,” he added, noting that Republicans have been slow to understand that Democrats are “playing by different rules.”
“From the point of view of the average Republican conservative,” Mr. Cannon added, “these people aren’t the apparent monsters they’re being made out to be,” referring to maligned judicial nominees like Justice Thomas, Judge Bork and Judge Kavanaugh.
Privately, some conservatives were thrilled that Dr. Blasey and her lawyer have resisted the opportunity to testify in the Senate on Monday and demanded instead that the F.B.I. first investigate her claims. That would be just enough, they said, to give Republicans the justification for moving forward without her. The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, made clear on Wednesday that he would not postpone a hearing past Monday.
And once the Senate puts the Kavanaugh nomination on track for a final vote, barring any unforeseen disclosures, that sets up a fight that Republicans could win in the Senate but might ultimately lose at the ballot box in November. The level of outrage could run so hot among Democrats, who would likely use every procedural and political tool at their disposal to delay confirmation, that it could provide even more fuel to an already energized liberal base.