The Mob Out There

Take the long view. Things changed in the sixties. Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Everyone told him that move meant that the Democrats would lose the South for a generation. The states’-rights segregationist Dixiecrats would surely become hard-ass Republicans – and they did. Johnson was okay with that. It was better to do the right thing, and the cost was low. He won the 1964 election in a landslide. Barry Goldwater hated that Civil Rights Act and said so, over and over. Goldwater carried the states of the Old South and no other states at all – but that wasn’t the end of it. That was the beginning of the Republicans being the Party of the South – and the South turned out to be everywhere. Four years later Nixon had a Southern Strategy – H. R. Haldeman noted that Nixon “emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks, and the key is to devise a system that recognized this while not appearing to” – and there was Nixon’s “silent majority” – the folks who hated hippies and the new feminists and school bussing and the “agitators” of all sorts. They were Southerner by temperament, even if they lived in Boston or Boise. It was the same with the Reagan Democrats – angry blue-collar white men who felt pushed out of their America.

The South was everywhere now. The first Bush, a highly competent but rather clueless technocrat, didn’t play that card – he might have found that distasteful – nor did his bumbling son, for whatever reason, but the 2010 Tea Party movement was all about those who were white-hot angry that they had been pushed out of “their” America. They said so, and they weren’t too happy with a black man in the White House either, and they were mad as hell about the “wrong sort” of people getting all the goodies, those later identified as Mitt Romney’s Forty-Seven Percent. Nixon’s “silent majority” wasn’t silent any longer, and that’s what Donald Trump tapped into. He promised these folks their jobs back, which will never come back because those jobs don’t exist anymore, and promised them their “rightful” place in the scheme of things, even if no one is guaranteed anything in this sorry life. But somehow it wouldn’t be all gays and blacks and Hispanics and Muslims and whatnot anymore, or uppity women either. Donald Trump would set things right. Nixon’s “silent majority” was entitled to respect. Men, not flaky feminists, were entitled to respect, and white men in particular, good white men doing good, were entitled to respect. That should be automatic.

That isn’t automatic:

The wrenching battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the high court left the public with sharply negative impressions of the new Supreme Court justice and raised questions about his truthfulness, his temperament to serve and whether his partisan views would influence his work on the bench, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS in the final days of the fight over his confirmation.

Overall, 51% in the poll oppose Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, up from 39% who opposed it in early September, after his initial confirmation hearing but before accusations of sexual misconduct emerged. Support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation has merely inched up, by contrast, from 38% backing him in early September to 41% now.

There was no automatic respect for this man, but there were automatic reactions:

Much of that shift has happened among partisans, with both sides pulling further apart on everything Kavanaugh-related. Among Democrats, 63% opposed his nomination in early September, and that has risen to 91% in the new poll. Among Republicans, 74% backed him in September and 89% do so now.

Among Democrats, negative impressions of Kavanaugh have jumped 30 points, from 56% in August to 86% now. Positive views of Kavanaugh among Republicans have grown at the same time, increasing 18 points from 62% in August to 80% now.

But there’s this:

Among women, 53% now have a negative view, up from 33% in August.

That means that Republican women are jumping ship, lots of them, with this overall assessment:

All told, 52% of Americans say they believe the women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct over the judge’s denials of those accusations (38% said they believed him more than the women). And half (50%) said they thought he lied about his alcohol use as a young adult, more than thought he was telling the truth about it (37%). Half say Kavanaugh’s personal conduct has disqualified him to serve on the court, and 53% say his professional qualifications do not outweigh any questions about his personal conduct. A larger majority, 56%, think Kavanaugh would be influenced by his personal political beliefs when considering cases before the Supreme Court… the public was more evenly divided over whether Kavanaugh has the temperament to serve effectively on the court, 48% said he did not and 45% that he did.

All of that is rather dismal but for this:

More say that Kavanaugh did face a “politically motivated smear campaign” (48%) than say he didn’t face such an effort (41%).

That provides Donald Trump with an opening. The nation seems to agree that his new man on the Supreme Court is a nasty piece of work and a jerk and a liar, and emotionally unstable too, but more say he might have been treated unfairly than say he was treated fairly – not a majority of course, but more people than those who say he got just what he deserved in those hearings.

Donald Trump could run with that, and as Ashley Parker and John Wagner report, that’s just what he did:

President Trump further politicized an already contentious Supreme Court confirmation battle Monday evening, beginning a ceremonial swearing-in for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh by apologizing to both Kavanaugh and his family “for the terrible pain and suffering” he said they were forced to endure.

“Those who step forward to serve our country deserve a fair and dignified evaluation, not a campaign of political and personal destruction based on lies and deception,” Trump said in the East Room of the White House. “What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency and due process.”

Trump didn’t speak to the charges, just the tone of the questions that had been raised, or the fact that questions were asked at all – the Democrats and all these whining women should apologized to his man:

“In our country, a man or a woman must always be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” he said – before turning to Kavanaugh and asserting: “I must state that you, sir, under historic scrutiny, were proven innocent.”

Parker and Wagner state the obvious:

In fact, no definitive conclusions were reached during the confirmation process regarding Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, or on accusations of sexual misconduct in high school and college by two other women. Kavanaugh denied the allegations and Republicans pushed his nomination forward, arguing that no corroborating evidence or witnesses had been produced.

In fact, no one proved anything. Trump should have said that the FBI proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that nothing could be proven about any of this, one way or the other – at least not now. No one was proven innocent. No one was proven guilty either. This was a wash. Trump got it wrong, on purpose, because it was a good line. There WAS a trial! The man was PROVEN innocent!

That’s his new narrative, along with this:

Trump’s comments on Monday evening came hours after he said it was “an insult to the American public” for Democrats to consider impeaching Kavanaugh if they take control of Congress after the midterm elections and predicted that Republicans would benefit at the polls following the chaotic confirmation process.

As he departed the White House for a brief trip to Orlando on Monday afternoon, Trump lauded Kavanaugh as a “brilliant jurist” and blamed Democrats for the focus on the allegations of sexual misconduct that dominated debate in the weeks before the Senate voted to confirm.

“The way they really tortured him and his family, I thought it was a disgrace,” Trump said. “A brilliant jurist, a man that did nothing wrong, a man that was caught up in a hoax that was set up by the Democrats using the Democrats’ lawyers, and now they want to impeach him.”

And that means that Democrats will all now vote Republican, because they hated all these whining women attacking a good white man, who was the real victim here:

“I think a lot of Democrats are going to vote Republican,” Trump added. “The main base of the Democrats has shifted so far left that we’ll end up being Venezuela. This country would end up being Venezuela.”

That is what happens when a nation takes women seriously. What? His mind makes some strange leaps. But there was this:

Kavanaugh seemed aware of the cloud that hung over his ascension to the nation’s highest court and attempted to play down the partisan tensions that burned during the Senate proceedings. He promised on Monday to “take this office with gratitude and no bitterness” following the “contentious and emotional” confirmation process that he said “did not change me.”

“My approach to judging remains the same: A good judge must be an umpire, a neutral and impartial decider that favors no litigant or policy,” he said.

Donald Trump stood in the corner, smiling slyly. Parker and Wagner report the other justices were a bit upset this took place at the White House, not the Supreme Court building as is usually done. Kavanaugh and Trump seemed to be making a political statement – he is the White House’s man no matter what he said at the microphones. That may be why Donald Trump was smiling.

Donald Trump was smiling because the plan was coming together. Matt Viser and Robert Costa report on the plan:

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.

That worked for Nixon in 1968 – back then folks hated hippies and the new feminists and school bussing and agitators of all sorts – and this is just a variation on that theme:

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.”

That may be wishful thinking, but this is a plan:

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.

This is an update of the good old days:

The new front is a modern incarnation of the law-and-order thrusts Republicans have used before in tough campaigns, most notably 50 years ago, when Richard Nixon used the specter of rioting at the Democratic National Convention to cast the opposing party as the tool of antiwar protesters and violent malcontents.

This time, the GOP’s foil is composed of leftists, elitists and feminists, of academics and celebrities, of Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti, philanthropist George Soros and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has called for the president’s impeachment.

But it’s also an admission that they don’t have much else:

The turn toward a culture war is also a tacit admission that many of the issues that Republicans had sought to run on, from tax cuts to the upbeat state of the economy, have not been enough to fan GOP voters’ enthusiasm and counter an electrified Democratic electorate.

But they have what they have, although some are a bit disgusted with the whole thing:

“It’s aimed at firing up Fox viewers and the more strident elements of Trump’s base; it’s fearmongering,” said John Weaver, a longtime Republican strategist who is a frequent Trump critic. “I’m sure there is some little old lady in Iowa who now keeps her doors locked because she thinks there’s going to be some anarchist mob coming through Davenport.”

Weaver noted that many of the marches that have cropped up since Trump’s inauguration have been led by suburban women or young Americans focused on issues important to voters, such as gun safety or science.

“They want to take the freedom to assemble and turn it into a negative,” Weaver said. “‘The mob’ is trying to dehumanize and belittle and dismiss the current activism that we’re seeing around the country.”

Well, yes – that’s the whole idea – and they’ve finally figured it all out:

Earlier this year, when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was denied service at a Virginia restaurant and when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled by protesters at a Mexican restaurant, Republicans cast Democrats as overreacting and unable to withhold their animus toward Trump.

It was not until the days leading up to and following Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation that Republicans, one after another, adopted the same terminology.

“They have encouraged mob rule,” Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said on the Senate floor Friday. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said there was “a paid mob trying to prevent senators from doing the will of their constituents,” while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wondered on Twitter: “Imagine the coverage on cable news if an angry mob of conservatives stormed the steps of the Supreme Court building.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touted: “We stood up to the mob.”

At his Saturday night rally in Topeka, Kan., Trump joined in, asserting that “the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob.”

The plan came together, as did the objections:

Democrats have balked at the GOP’s attempts to define the Trump resistance movement, arguing that it’s simply a movement by people appalled by Republican policies.

Neera Tanden, who runs the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, has changed her Twitter account’s name to “Women’s Mob” alongside an emoji of a blue wave as a way of countering the Republican argument.

“They clearly need a way to juice turnout, but the women who protested against Kavanaugh are women who have experienced sexual assault, who are mothers. The resistance to Trump is predominantly college-educated women,” Tanden said. “Donald Trump may want to wage a culture war, but attacking women writ large is attacking 50 percent of the population.”

Jessica Campbell-Swanson, a 35-year-old from Denver, flew to Washington last week to lobby Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) with a nonprofit group, End Rape on Campus. She was among those outside the Supreme Court, protesting as Senate Republican staffers peered down.

“Brett Kavanaugh was allowed to be angry, and they were fine with that,” she said. “We have a right to be angry. We’re not a mob. We weren’t violent. We were completely nonviolent.”

That’s what Gandhi and Martin Luther King said too. Just look at their acts of extreme violence. Martin Luther King’s people sat down at lunch counters. They walked across bridges. They incited violence. These were the arguments made in in the early sixties, and Trump just tweeted out his argument:

You don’t hand matches to an arsonist, and you don’t give power to an angry left-wing mob. Democrats have become too EXTREME and TOO DANGEROUS to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law – not the rule of the mob. VOTE REPUBLICAN!

Is that so? Eugene Scott simply notes this:

It is true many of the protesters occupying Capitol Hill in these past few weeks were angry with the president, Republican senators and others who backed Kavanaugh. Some Republican lawmakers got calls with threats so severe they had to get police protection. But the protests on Capitol Hill, in lawmakers’ districts, and even in front of some of their homes were largely peaceful.

Trump has also characterized the protesters at some of his rallies as a violent threat. While many were certainly disruptive, it is not clear any of them were on the brink of acting violent. In fact, some protesters at Trump rallies have had violent acts committed against them. At several of his rallies that were interrupted by black protesters, Trump reminisced about how socially acceptable it used to be to physically assault protesters.

“In the good old days, this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough,” he said. “And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily.”

And there was this, obviously:

Dozens of white nationalists descended upon the University of Virginia in 2017 to protest the removal of a Confederate memorial there. They carried lighted torches through the night and chanted “Jews will not replace us.” The photographs of the protesters, mostly white men, showed them with facial expressions that would certainly be described as angry, yet Trump did not call the group a “mob,” even after one of those protesters drove his car into a crowd, killing a counter-protester. In fact, it was the exact opposite.

“You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” Trump said in the days after the events in Charlottesville.

And there is this, obviously:

When Trump supporters responded harshly to anti-Trump activists at his rallies, booing them, referring to them using racial slurs and even going so far as to punch them, the president did not discourage the mob-like behavior, but encouraged it.

At a February 2016 rally in Las Vegas, Trump said: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you that. We’re not allowed to punch back anymore.”

At another rally in Iowa the same month, Trump encouraged his supporters to respond violently to those seeking to disrupt his speech: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, okay? Just knock the hell… I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.”

And embracing Trump’s call to action, they did.

John McGraw, a 78-year-old Trump supporter, later told Inside Edition he enjoyed punching Rakeem Jones, a 26-year-old black man, at a rally in North Carolina because the protester “deserved it.” He said:

“You bet I liked it. Knocking the hell out of that big mouth. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

Yeah, well, Will Bunch explained that this way:

Of course, one person’s mob is, to others, what democracy looks like – a debate stretching all the way back to 1775. Believe me, this so-called “angry mob” would much rather spend its fall weekends at their kids’ soccer games or picking apples than chanting themselves hoarse or, in dozens of cases, getting arrested.

But they are an angry mob now. That’s the new narrative, or the old narrative that served Richard Nixon so well, and there probably is some little old lady in Iowa who now keeps her doors locked because she thinks there’s going to be some anarchist mob coming through Davenport.

And that mob will be led by Taylor Swift. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk explains that:

Taylor Swift’s declaration that she plans to vote for Democrats next month fell like a hammer across the Trump-worshipping sub-forums of the far-right Internet, where people had convinced themselves, for reasons it will take some time to explain, that the world-famous pop star was a secret #MAGA fan…

Missives about Swift’s perceived betrayal of conservatism clogged far-right message boards. Some simply refused to believe what she had written to her 112 million Instagram followers Sunday evening – a 400-word condemnation of “systemic racism,” homophobia and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the GOP Senate candidate in her home state of Tennessee, complete with Swift’s endorsement of two Democrats: Phil Bredesen, the party’s Senate candidate, and Rep. Jim Cooper.

But for years she had been on their side:

Amateur sleuths began sifting through the website in search of supposed secret messages from the pop star, coming up with a photo of someone’s window blinds that looked like Swift’s and an anonymous message from a “conservative” “entertainer” who claimed to be “one of the 50 most famous people on the planet.”

A myth that began with a kitten took a dark turn a few years later, when a neo-Nazi blogger came across a joke meme that mashed up photos of Swift with quotes from Adolf Hitler. He apparently mistook these as authentic and published them on the Daily Stormer under the headline: “Aryan Goddess Taylor Swift: Nazi Avatar of the White European People.”

“Swift is very white and very blonde,” Milo Yiannopoulos wrote on Breitbart in 2016. “She was born on, and grew up in, a Christmas tree farm in rural Pennsylvania. You heard me right: a Christmas tree farm. Little wonder the tradition-oriented alt-right are swooning.”

And now they’re devastated:

Suffice to say, a meme of Pepe the Frog openly weeping with a gun to his head appeared in one of the most popular threads, more or less summing up the mood.

Taylor Swift, the Aryan Goddess, the Nazi Avatar of the White European People, joined the angry left-wing mob of ugly vengefully whining woman that wants to turn America into Venezuela. Damn. But take the long view. Nixon used the “mob” narrative, and look what happened to him.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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2 Responses to The Mob Out There

  1. Patricia Martin says:

    Alan, I suggest you leave the comfort of chair, typing your view, sprinkled with some facts, some History, and some of your life experiences…. move around the Country. North, South, East n West.. Start a conversation with plain folk, perhaps waiting for service in a line,, office etc etc. I do, I have.
    The opinions never cease to blow my mine….the real people, the soul of American … It just may blow your mind …. it just may give you food for thought … WE the people do not need to be bombarded with all this bull crap .. Their are many facts/ideas/history and surprise-surprise common sense to make one believe we do NOT all think alike …. WE are NOT all Trump haters…

  2. I sort of like being called a “mobster”, in this particular context.

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