Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An Angry Mob, You Say?

From the Washington Post:

When thousands of furious, screaming protesters marched toward the Capitol over the weekend as Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed, Republican staffers peered out at the scene from the windows above. They were not alarmed but elated.

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

President Trump and the GOP firmly control Congress and the White House and have massive financial and media infrastructure behind them. But in an effort to flip the midterm elections from a referendum on the unpopular president, they are casting themselves as defenders at the barricades.

In Virginia, Rep. David Brat (R) is running against the “liberal mob,” and GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart has decried the “mob tactics” that “tried to destroy” Kavanaugh.

“When we’re out at grocery stores or at events, we’re finding swing voters are turned off by how Kavanaugh was treated,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said. “Chasing senators down the hall, running up the stairs at the Capitol — we’ve been taken aback by how people have reacted to it. And we’re responding.”

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men.

So the angry protestors that disrupted town hall meetings in 2009 at the instigation of the poorly-disguised GOP-led Tea Party and the White Pride march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed a woman and were told that there were “good people” doing it; those were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, is that it?  Oh, and all those people chanting “Lock her up!” and beating up demonstrators at the encouragement of their dear leader, why, that was just good old American freedom flexing its muscle.

The ironic thing is, though, that this country was founded by an angry mob: the American revolution wasn’t a polite disagreement, and if we’d let the fear of the unknown hold us back, we’d have never expanded this country beyond the Appalachians.  But the Republicans and the Trumpers are masters at exploiting fear and loathing; it’s the only way they’ve won elections in the last fifty years, and they know that there are enough weak-willed and blustering bullies out there who will either fall for their line or make money off it.

We’re better than that.  But don’t take my word for it.  Take it from a man who couldn’t even stand on his own two feet without help but who faced down fear and anger and turned it into good.

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Now’s the time to do it again.