Some prominent Democrats are done playing nice now that Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said it may be time to consider abandoning the idea of civility when dealing with “a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.” A day later, former attorney general Eric Holder, whose name has been floated as a potential 2020 candidate, argued that Michelle Obama was wrong when she said Democrats should “go high” when Republicans abandon decency for political gain. “When they go low, we kick them,” Holder said while campaigning for Democrats in Georgia, going on to clarify that he does not mean the left should resort to anything “illegal” or “inappropriate,” only that “we have to be tough and we have to fight.”
The comments were catnip for the right, which has been working to portray Democrats as an unruly mob following the widespread protests of the GOP’s drive to install an alleged sexual abuser on the Supreme Court. Fox News has trotted out a cavalcade of talking heads to decry “left-wing intolerance” and the “angry, violent fools” who have come to make up the liberal base. In an op-ed for the network’s website, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote that the left does “not intend to reverse course and close the ever-widening divide between Americans,” and that Democrats need to “forcefully condemn the culture their own rhetoric has created.”
On Wednesday night, Laura Ingraham railed against the “marauding bands of frenzied leftists” while wondering about the impact the current political climate might have on children. “The Kavanaugh battle has brought out the worst in the Democrats and our kids are watching,” she said. “Rather than reexamine their tactics following this seismic defeat, liberals have decided to go even lower.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 11, 2018
While Republican leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and President Trump have broadly demonized those protesting Kavanaugh, the comments from Clinton and Holder — as well as a call from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to “get up in the face” of some lawmakers — have inspired others to share how they have been affected personally. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), whose wife wrote last week that threats against her and her husband have forced her to sleep with a loaded gun, opened up on Fox News. “They have to realize that when they tell people to get up in your face, that there are some crazy, unstable people out there,” Paul said.
Senator @RandPaul on Eric Holder’s rhetoric: “They have to realize that when they tell people to get up in your face, that there are some crazy unstable people out there.” https://t.co/3gNCqwH0XN pic.twitter.com/Q8STwHjOLI
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 11, 2018
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who in 2017 was shot during a congressional baseball practice, wrote an op-ed for Fox News in which he pointed out several examples of Republicans who have been harassed. “In America, we win battles at the ballot box, not through mob rule or intimidation,” he wrote, calling Holder’s comments a “direct threat to our Democracy.” Scalise cited the threats against the Paul family, as well as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Paul’s colleague in the Senate who tweeted on Wednesday that his wife received a graphic text message before he voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. “This is not who we are,” Gardner wrote.
Just before I voted to confirm Justice Kavanaugh, my wife received a text message of a graphic beheading. We now have public officials saying you should be uncivil to each other – a call for incivility.
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) October 10, 2018
This is all very unfortunate — no one should be receiving death threats. Nevertheless, all of these conservatives are willfully ignoring Trump’s influence on this situation. Do they think Hillary Clinton hasn’t been receiving death threats? What about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who Trump has made a habit of singling out at rallies? She’s had to cancel events because of death threats made against her. (Her response? “You better shoot straight.”) Christine Blasey Ford was threatened so mercilessly after daring to come forward with an allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh that she had to move out of her house. After the Boston Globe launched an editorial campaign to denounce Trump’s attacks on the press, a California man was arrested for threatening to kill its journalists, calling them the “enemy of the people.” The list goes on.
This culture of “mob rule” and “intimidation,” as Scalise puts it, is something the president has actively promoted. While campaigning in 2016, he longed for the “old days” when protesters would be “carried out on a stretcher.” When a supporter sucker-punched a protester at a rally in North Carolina, Trump said he was “looking into” paying the assailant’s legal fees. A few months later he said that maybe “the Second Amendment people” could do something to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal judges if she were to be elected.
He refused to condemn the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, arguing that the white nationalist mob contained some “very fine people” and that “both sides” were to blame. He’s advocated for police brutality against MS-13 gang members, and argued that drug dealers should be put to death. He has repeatedly described Democrats as sub-human, calling them “crazed” and “evil” and a “mob” that needs to be eradicated from American politics. Same goes for the media, which he has relished labeling the “enemy of the people.”
All of this has been done very publicly and without remorse. This kind of unrest is what Trump wants. He’s been cultivating it since he first called Mexicans “rapists” back when he announced his candidacy in June 2015. But it wasn’t until three years later when a Democrat used a violent metaphor to make a point about getting tough that Fox News and Trump’s lackeys in Congress suddenly started to worry about the effect this political climate is having on children and families. As is the case with tax fraud, campaign finance felonies, violations of the emoluments clause and the rest of the never-ending list of his indiscretions since taking office, when it comes to inciting a culture of violence, the president is beyond reproach.
On Thursday morning, Trump addressed Holder’s comments during a phone interview with Fox & Friends, calling them “dangerous” and “disgusting.” He couldn’t help but throw in a threat of his own, as he is wont to do. “He better be careful what he’s wishing for,” the president said.