Donald Trump has seen the progressive activism surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, and he’s worked aggressively to dismiss these Americans as unimportant. The president kept the rhetorical push going this morning, writing on Twitter, “The paid D.C. protesters are now ready to REALLY protest because they haven’t gotten their checks - in other words, they weren’t paid!”
Evidently, Trump thought we wouldn’t understand the subtlety of “they haven’t gotten their checks,” so he thought it was necessary to explain what that meant. How … charitable.
The irony of the criticism remains amusing. After all, the only prominent national politician who’s been caught paying people to appear at events is Donald Trump, and the firm that provided the actors later complained that it didn’t receive its check.
In other words, Mr. President, it wasn’t paid.
But the broader significance is the degree to which Republicans hope to use progressive activism to the GOP’s advantage. As the Washington Post reported:
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. […]
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.
The strategy isn’t subtle: Republican officials are telling their voters, in no uncertain terms, that failure to support GOP candidates will reward out-of-control screaming liberals hellbent on civil unrest.
Republicans seem to believe they can prevail in the midterms if they can convince just enough voters to be terrified of the dangerous progressive “mob.”
As an electoral matter, this may very well be an effective tactic. We’ll find out four weeks from today. But Paul Waldman raised a good point yesterday that’s worth appreciating: “When Republicans stage loud protests (such as the Tea Party), it is not only a testament to the vitality of democracy; it is also proof that they have legitimate complaints that must be addressed; when Democrats stage loud protests, they are an ‘angry mob’ that constitutes a threat to democracy.”
Quite right. In 2010, when far-right activists took to the streets and screamed at lawmakers during town-hall forums, they were engaged in political protests that were, we were told at the time, worthy of respect and celebration. Democrats who dared to ignore these vital American voices were condemned as out-of-touch elitists who’d grown indifferent to the meaningful fears of regular folks who had a message officials needed to hear and consider.
But in 2018, progressive activists are a corrupt and dangerous “mob” that must be ignored, condemned, and feared.
It wasn’t enough for Republicans to confirm Kavanaugh; they had to delegitimize those who opposed him, too.