The Thomas Hearings as the Catalyst for Political Mobilization
Unlike the three illustrative critical judicial nominations described in Chapter 2, which affected the Supreme Court's role and impact on politics, the Thomas nomination's impact leaped beyond the judicial branch to directly affect segments of the electorate and specific election campaigns. In October 1991, the nation's attention was captured by the spectacle of the Senate Judiciary Committee grappling with allegations of sexual harassment raised against a Supreme Court nominee by his former assistant. The senators purported to seek the truth about the allegations, but partisan interests governed their behavior in either attacking Anita Hill, challenging Clarence Thomas's denials, or, more commonly, evincing bewilderment about how to get through the controversy quickly without suffering excessive political damage in the eyes of constituents. The lingering image in the minds of many observers, especially educated female voters, was of fourteen middle-aged white males demonstrating convincingly their insensitivity and lack of understanding about sexual harassment as they permitted or, in some cases, planned and executed unfair, politically motivated attacks on the alleged discrimination victim. Thus although the mobilization of women voters occurred as a result of the critical Thomas nomination, it was triggered more by what the public learned about the Senate during the confirmation process than by what Thomas said during the
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Publication information: Book title: Critical Judicial Nominations and Political Change:The Impact of Clarence Thomas. Contributors: Christopher E. Smith - Author. Publisher: Praeger Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 73.