Former attorney general Eric Holder believes Michelle Obama was wrong when she famously said: “When they go low, we go high.” Rather, he told Democrats at a gathering in Georgia, “When they go low, we kick them.”
What Holder meant was: “When they win a presidency through the constitutionally mandated process, and the duly elected president nominates a Supreme Court justice with a 12-year exceptional record on the bench, and the duly elected Senate follows all the rules and precedents set by Democrats, offering numerous hearings and investigations along the way, and confirm that nominee through a vote, then we kick them. Because we’re frustrated.”
There is nothing wrong with “fighting” in politics. We don’t need to be hypersensitive about the metaphorical excesses of partisanship (unless it’s Donald Trump or Sarah Palin — then we must take it literally, seriously, and hysterically). But the problem is that Democrats have a bad habit of acting as if every political setback they experience is caused by some act of criminality. This instigates lots people to act like a bunch of children—or worse.
When Democrats lose the House, it’s because of mythical unilateral gerrymandering or mythical mass-voter suppression. When they lose the Senate, the system suddenly becomes an antiquated relic of the 1700s. When they lose the Supreme Court, there is a “legitimacy crisis.” When they lost the 2000 election, it was stolen by the Supreme Court. In 2004, George W. Bush rigged the election in Ohio. When Democrats lost in 2016, those omnipotent Russians and the unfair Electoral College snatched the office from its preordained owner.
The Republican Senate majority “cheated” Obama out of a seat. The Republicans are “packing” the court by seating the same number of justices Barack Obama did. Every legislative action that fails to comport with liberal thinking is to them an apocalyptic event and the end of “democracy.”
If all of this were true, the only question is: why aren’t more people joining a mob? If your government is stealing your country, why wouldn’t you embrace boorishness, or even violence?
“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Hillary Clinton recently explained, egging on one of those mobs. And it makes sense. If you allow politics to become a stand-in for religion, the apostates don’t deserve decency. “Civility can start again,” Clinton went on to helpfully inform us, when Democrats run the House.
Of course, it’s easy to embrace fake magnanimity when you hold power. Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” came during her 2016 speech at the Democratic National Convention, and it was aimed at Trumpian rhetoric when nearly everyone in power believed Clinton would triumph. She offered her axiom after liberals had spent eight years trying to use executive power to coerce, demean, and morally micromanage the deplorables—yet those clingy God-loving gun nuts stubbornly refused to accept the progressive reinvention of patriotism.
They went low all the time. It was Joe Biden, not Trump, who accused Republicans and their presidential candidate, a man who had dutifully engaged in civic life for quite some time, of “betting against America.”
Yet Democrats still act perplexed by the backlash. Even now the mob within their ranks is being cast, predictably, as a conservative fiction. “Republicans Seize On ‘Angry Mob’ Mantra To Keep Their Midterm Base Fired Up,” says NPR, and so on. CNN insists that it’s a normal, everyday demonstration of free expression to chase politicians’ wives out of public places. You may not use the word “mob” in their presence.
“The media’s insistence that mob action & intimidation tactics have not been deployed by the left here — stuff that goes well beyond the normal parameters of acceptable protest — is pure gaslighting,” Guy Benson recently noted. “Especially as major national Democrats shrug it off or even egg it on.”
No, it’s not the Parisian mob. It’s more like one of those illiberal campus mobs that attempt, often successfully, to shut down debate. A mob is a disorderly crowd of people who have the intent “of causing trouble or violence.” So, for example, that means people who interrupt lawful proceedings, or people who wildly bang on the Supreme Court doors when a vote doesn’t go their way, or people who surround politicians (and their families) and chase them out of public places like restaurants, or people who join groups that smear other Americans without evidence, and those who try to undermine the rule of law through intimidation.
SUPERcut of reporters telling people to not use the “mob” word cut with video of the mob. pic.twitter.com/o2tgNZMEv5
— Andrew Kugle (@AndrewJKugle) October 11, 2018
As a First Amendment absolutist, I say yell at politicians in public spaces all you like. That just means you’re a buffoon. But once you surround people, restrict their movements, you are engaging in more than incivility. Those actions will almost surely compound and become dangerous. And should I even mention that if any of this were directed at Democrats, the nation would be plunged into a full-fledged, overwrought discussion about the importance in civility in American life?
“This is what happens,” Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono said this week. If you act as if every traditionally conservative policy position and legal appointment to the court portends the Fourth Reich, this is indeed what happens. For now, though, partisan incivility isn’t really a mainstream problem. (Well, at least for people who don’t live in Portland or Seattle, where leftist mobs occasionally destroy downtown, which is far closer to the norm than the Tiki-torch Nazi march the media is obsessed with trying to link to conservatives.) Some Democrats seem to want to change this.