GOP decries Dems’ ‘mob rule’, in new twist
Hysterical reaction to Kavanaugh hearing a ‘political gift’ for midterm elections.
President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are forecasting nightmarish Democratic “mob rule’’ to amp up GOP voters for next month’s critical midterm elections, flipping the script from complaints that it’s Mr Trump and the tea party movement who’ve boosted rowdy and divisive tactics to dangerous levels.
Less than a month from voting in which GOP control of Congress is dangling precariously, Republicans are linking comments and actions by Democratic politicians, raucous protesters opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and even a gunman who shot targeted GOP lawmakers. The message to Republican voters: Democrats are employing radical tactics that are only growing worse.
“Only one side was happy to play host to this toxic fringe behaviour,’’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday in the latest GOP attack. “Only one side’s leaders are now openly calling for more of it. They haven’t seen enough. They want more. And I’m afraid this is only Phase One of the meltdown.’’
While the demonstrations were intense and some Republicans reported personal threats, liberal protesters’ tactics were broadly in line with those used by groups on the left and right during particularly passionate moments in Washington. The confrontational style harkened back to protests by the conservative tea party, which included angry face-offs with lawmakers and a massive Capitol demonstration far larger than last week’s rallies.
It’s not unusual for Republicans and Democrats alike to sharpen their rhetoric as elections approach in hopes of drawing loyal voters to the polls. But the GOP shift to disparaging descriptions of their opponents as unruly and sinister is a marked change from their messaging before the Kavanaugh battle, when they’d hoped to focus on the strong economy and the mammoth tax cut they pushed through Congress last December.
Both parties have detected a surge in engagement among GOP and conservative voters since the nation’s attention was grabbed by the confirmation battle over Mr Kavanaugh, including allegations of sexual misconduct that he denied. While no one knows if that energy will last until Election Day, Democratic voters driven by an animus toward Mr Trump until now were far more motivated.
Top Republicans have acknowledged that television scenes of anti-Kavanaugh protesters berating senators and interrupting Senate debate have helped them.
“It’s turned our base on fire,’’ Mr McConnell said about the battle, which he’s called a political gift. Focusing on the “mob’’ has also let Republicans raise the subject without explicitly reminding voters about Mr Kavanaugh himself, who polling showed was viewed unfavourably by the public.
So far, Republicans have shown no signs of abandoning that focus.
“The Democrats are willing to do anything, to hurt anyone, to get the power they so desperately crave,’’ Mr Trump said at a rally in Minnesota last week. He added, “They want to destroy.’’
Democrats argue that the party of Mr Trump and the conservative tea party has nerve to decry such behaviour.
“The last time I looked, the mocker-inchief is in the White House,’’ said Sen Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. Mr Trump drew fresh ire last week when he ridiculed Christine Blasey Ford, the first of Mr Kavanaugh’s three women accusers.
Democrats say Mr Trump’s rhetoric since launching his 2016 campaign has been provocative, pugnacious and at times racist. They cite numerous comments about Mexicans, Muslims, African countries. They also noted his statement that there were “very fine people on both sides’’ after an anti-Nazi demonstrator was killed by a white supremacist at a violent 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Crowds at Trump campaign rallies have long chanted that about 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. They’ve aimed it in recent days at Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, who some Republicans have accused of leaking Ms Ford’s letter claiming sexual assault by Mr Kavanaugh. Ms Feinstein has denied the leak.
Grassroots tea party activists opposed to President Barack Obama’s health care bill noisily disrupted lawmakers’ town hall meetings across the country in the summer of 2009, booing and accusing Democrats of lying. One man in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, told a lawmaker that God will “judge you and the rest of your damned cronies on the Hill’’, while a Boston woman demanded to know, “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?’’
That September, tens of thousands of tea party demonstrators ringed the Capitol to protest the health care law and what they considered a wasteful, oversized federal government. That crowd dwarfed the hundreds or several thousand anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators. Black lawmakers said they were targeted by racial epithets and spat upon during a smaller rally by several thousand tea party supporters in March 2010, as Congress was voting on the health care legislation.
In remarks on Thursday, Mr McConnell described last week’s anti-Kavanaugh protesters as “literally storming the steps of the Capitol and the Supreme Court,’’ confronting Republicans at restaurants and airports and shouting from visitors’ galleries during Senate debates. Republicans have said some received death threats and were stalked at their homes.
McConnell criticised Ms Clinton, who said on CNN this week that “civility can start again’’ after Democrats capture the House or Senate in next month’s elections.
Mr McConnell noted that these activities followed last year’s shooting of GOP lawmakers at a morning baseball practice by “a politically crazed gunman.’’ Gunman James Hodgkinson, killed at the scene by officers, was infuriated by Trump’s election.
Both parties have detected a surge in engagement among GOP voters since the confirmation battle over Mr Kavanaugh.
HARNESSING THE STORM: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks on Capitol Hill last week.
POLARISING FIGURE: New Supreme Court judge, Brett Kavanaugh.