'Toxic fringe behaviour': As midterm elections near, Donald Trump team fashions negative branding for Democrats reeling from Kavanaugh fallout

Washington: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning that recent statements and actions by Democrats and liberal writers and protesters are "only Phase One of the meltdown."

McConnell's comments Thursday on the Senate floor decrying "mob behavior" advanced an election-season argument Republicans unveiled last week.

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh participates in his ceremonial public swearing-in in the presence of US president Donald Trump and Kavanaugh's wife and daughters on 8 October. Reuters

US Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh being sworn in on 8 October. Reuters

They're accusing Democrats of condoning "mob rule" — a phrase that's popped up in GOP rhetoric since raucous demonstrators opposing Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination harangued Republicans at the Capitol last week.

McConnell described demonstrators "literally storming the steps" of the Capitol, and pointedly noted that these activities followed last year's shooting of GOP lawmakers at a morning baseball practice.

Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court fired the starting pistol for the final sprint to Election Day, with control of the House and Senate at stake. The nation's reckoning with power and who to believe about sexual misconduct has generated a new anger factor among the electorate and made the Nov. 6 balloting a referendum on more than US President Donald Trump.

What to watch over the final four weeks:

The Kavanaugh effect
The Kavanaugh confirmation has blown open the midterm elections from being a national referendum on Trump's stewardship to a raw emotional discussion over the lack of women in power and how to handle sexual misconduct allegations.

With Kavanaugh's ascension to the high court, Republicans, long dispirited by Trump's string of scandals and the prospect of losing their congressional majorities, are whooping it up.

"It's turned our base on fire," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. He added Monday that the fight over Kavanaugh, particularly that his nomination was stymied by unproven allegations, injected the GOP with an "adrenaline shot that we had not been able to figure out how to achieve in any other way."

Though Kavanaugh had been sworn in on Saturday, Trump hosted a glittering East Room ceremonial swearing-in for him Monday night.
What's unclear is whether GOP unity is enough to preserve the GOP power in Congress.

The same question faces the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct after the White House successfully argued that the Kavanaugh allegations should not be conflated with the rest of the movement.

Even before the confirmation, Kavanaugh's opponents had a comeback line, printed on the back of jackets they wore to the Capitol: "November is coming."

North Dakota
Almost immediately after the Senate vote, Democrats felt the chill from faraway North Dakota. That's the state Trump won by 36 percentage points against Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. And even before the Kavanaugh controversy, the Senate race there was among a handful of close contests that could decide whether Republicans keep control of the Senate, where they have a 51-49 majority.

Then on Saturday, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp defied her state's support for Trump and voted against Kavanaugh's confirmation. Heitkamp said she was concerned about Kavanaugh's temperament after his emotional performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Without hesitation," Heitkamp told reporters, she believed Ford.

Polls have put her Republican opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, comfortably ahead.

He told The New York Times that #MeToo was a "movement toward victimization" that had caused a backlash. "The world got to see close up how ugly it can be when you go too far," he's quoted as saying.

Framing the story
Now it's a four-week race to tell the story.
Trump has a busy campaign schedule to spread the word that the allegations against Kavanaugh were a "hoax that was set up by the Democrats" at what he's called a dangerous time for men who can be falsely accused. "I think you're going to see a lot of things happen on Nov. 6 that would not have happened before," Trump said Monday as he departed for an event in Florida.

At Monday's East Room ceremony, Trump again invoked the rhetoric Republicans are using to frame the whole episode: Kavanaugh, Trump said, had been "proven innocent," even though critics say the investigation was not thorough enough to merit that conclusion. The campaign against Kavanaugh had been based on "lies," including by "evil" people.

Trump is expected to spread that message over multiple campaign rallies, including this week in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky.


Updated Date: Oct 11, 2018 21:47 PM

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