GOP de­cries Dems’ ‘mob rule’, in new twist

Hys­ter­i­cal re­ac­tion to Ka­vanaugh hear­ing a ‘po­lit­i­cal gift’ for midterm elec­tions.

Bangkok Post - - SUNDAY FORUM - By Alan Fram

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.

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