Elec­tions, Democrats and ci­vil­ity

The Oklahoman - - OPINION - Michael Barone mbarone@wash­ing­tonex­am­iner.com CRE­ATORS.COM

‘You can­not be civil with a po­lit­i­cal party that wants to de­stroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Hil­lary Clin­ton told CNN on Tues­day. Her words can­not be taken lit­er­ally, for you can be civil if you want to; they’re a state­ment that she doesn’t want to.

That’s the bad news; the good news is that she laid out the terms and con­di­tions un­der which ci­vil­ity will be ap­pro­pri­ate again. “If we are for­tu­nate enough to win back the House and/or the Se­nate,” she went on, “that’s when ci­vil­ity can start again.”

Easy. Just let Democrats win the elec­tions, and then Repub­li­can sen­a­tors and their wives can eat din­ner in restaurants with­out be­ing forced out by jeer­ing crowds. Repub­li­can mem­bers of Congress can rest in peace at night, know­ing that their ad­dresses and phone num­bers won’t be doxed and crowds won’t gather to at­tack.

Asked if Democrats should stop be­hav­ing this way now, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono blandly replied, “this is what hap­pens.” So much for the aloha spirit.

You can tell that Democrats are a lit­tle em­bar­rassed by party lead­ers’ non­de­nun­ci­a­tion of vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion — as­sault and bat­tery in crim­i­nal law. That’s be­cause their CNN re­porter po­lit­i­cal al­lies have been bristling when the howl­ing protesters against Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion are called a “mob.” That’s a term ap­par­ently re­served for Repub­li­can protesters, no mat­ter how many deci­bels the in­vited guests of Demo­cratic mem­bers emit in the Se­nate gallery.

Democrats might rea­son­ably re­ply that Don­ald Trump of­fered to pay le­gal costs for a MAGA en­thu­si­ast ac­cused of beat­ing up Democrats, and that Hil­lary Clin­ton re­buked him sharply and right­fully for re­fus­ing in ad­vance to ac­cept the re­sults of the elec­tion. Lib­er­als pride them­selves on be­ing tol­er­ant and see them­selves as po­lit­i­cal mil­que­toasts. But when they’re los­ing, they are at least as nasty and vi­o­lent as they have some­times ac­cu­rately ac­cused Trump and his fol­low­ers of be­ing.

For some vot­ers, at least, this is not a good look. Re­cent polls show Repub­li­cans gain­ing in some close Se­nate races. The cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect is in­di­cated by the fact that, for the first time in months, Nate Sil­ver’s FiveThir­tyEight web­site gives Repub­li­cans a bet­ter chance (22 per­cent) of main­tain­ing its ma­jor­ity in the House than the Democrats’ chance (19 per­cent) of win­ning a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate. Both are a bit be­low the 29 per­cent chance of win­ning the web­site gave Don­ald Trump just be­fore the 2016 elec­tion.

Many, though not all, post-Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion polls show en­thu­si­asm about vot­ing in­creas­ing among Repub­li­can vot­ers, for the first time this cy­cle, to the level as among Democrats. That’s im­por­tant, since off-year turnout is vari­able and Democrats’ ad­van­tage has been clear in spe­cial elec­tions as well as polls. If that’s main­tained, Repub­li­cans’ chances of hold­ing their Se­nate ma­jor­ity is good: Nine of the 10 states with the clos­est Se­nate races were car­ried by Trump back then.

In House con­tests, many eyes have been fas­tened on up­scale (high in­come/high ed­u­ca­tion) districts where Trump ran sig­nif­i­cantly be­hind ear­lier Repub­li­cans and Clin­ton ran sig­nif­i­cantly ahead of ear­lier Democrats. But they’re less than half the 68 seats rated as toss-ups or lean­ing to one party by the Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port or the 69 in the Wash­ing­ton Post’s sur­vey of bat­tle­ground House districts.

The New York Times Up­shot-Siena Col­lege sur­veys of 40 House districts have shown Repub­li­cans ahead by 2 points or more in 18 polls, Democrats sim­i­larly ahead in 12, and a tie or a 1-point lead for one party in 10 polls.

So it’s pos­si­ble, though un­likely, Democrats could fall short in both houses. In which case I guess we can’t hope for any ci­vil­ity from Hil­lary Clin­ton.

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