Don't Look for Civility Unless Democrats Win in November
A Commentary By Michael Barone
"You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about," Hillary Clinton told CNN last Tuesday. Her words cannot be taken literally, for you can be civil if you want to; they're a statement that she doesn't want to.
That's the bad news; the good news is that she laid out the terms and conditions under which civility will be appropriate again. "(I)f we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate," she went on, "that's when civility can start again."
Easy. Just let Democrats win the elections, and then Republican senators and their wives can eat dinner in restaurants without being forced out by jeering crowds. Republican members of Congress can rest in peace at night, knowing that their addresses and phone numbers won't be doxed and crowds won't gather to attack.
Asked if Democrats should stop behaving this way now, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono blandly replied, "this is what happens." So much for the aloha spirit. Doesn't apply, apparently, if you favor restrictions on abortions.
A Republican senator out raking leaves can be attacked by an angry Democratic neighbor and left with multiple ribs broken. The House Republican baseball team cannot relax in the knowledge that a Bernie Sanders bro can start spraying gunfire over their practice field.
When I was writing the first edition of The Almanac of American Politics, 40-some years ago, it was common for members of Congress to list their Washington, D.C., addresses in the Congressional Directory. If you could have found one of those cumbersome earlier copies, you could have printed a four-page table showing the whole bunch of them.
You can tell that Democrats are a little embarrassed by Party leaders' nondenunciation of violence and intimidation -- assault and battery in criminal law. That's because their CNN reporter political allies have been bristling when the howling protesters against Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation are called a "mob." That's a term apparently reserved for Republican protesters, no matter how many decibels the invited guests of Democratic members emit in the Senate gallery.
Democrats might reasonably reply that Donald Trump offered to pay legal costs for a MAGA enthusiast accused of beating up Democrats, and that Hillary Clinton rebuked him sharply and rightfully for refusing in advance to accept the results of the election. Liberals pride themselves on being tolerant and see themselves as political milquetoasts. But when they're losing, they are at least as nasty and violent as they have sometimes accurately accused Trump and his followers of being.
For some voters, at least, this is not a good look. Recent polls show Republicans gaining in some close Senate races -- ABC-OH Predictive Insights in Arizona, NBC News-Marist College in Nevada, and New York Times Upshot-Siena College and CBS-YouGov in Tennessee and Texas.
The cumulative effect is indicated by the fact that, for the first time in months, Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website gives Republicans a better chance (22 percent) of maintaining its majority in the House than the Democrats' chance (19 percent) of winning a majority in the Senate. Both are a bit below the 29 percent chance of winning the website gave Donald Trump just before the 2016 election.
Many, though not all, post-Kavanaugh confirmation polls show enthusiasm about voting increasing among Republican voters, for the first time this cycle, to the level as among Democrats. That's important, since off-year turnout is variable and Democrats' advantage has been clear in special elections as well as polls. If that's maintained, Republicans' chances of holding their Senate majority is good: Nine of the 10 states with the closest Senate races were carried by Trump back then.
In House contests, many eyes have been fastened on upscale (high income/high education) districts where Trump ran significantly behind earlier Republicans and Clinton ran significantly ahead of earlier Democrats. But they're less than half the 68 seats rated as tossups or leaning to one party by the Cook Political Report or the 69 in the Washington Post's survey of battleground House districts.
The New York Times Upshot-Siena College surveys of 40 House districts have shown Republicans ahead by 2 points or more in 18 polls, Democrats similarly ahead in 12, and a tie or a 1 point lead for one party in 10 polls. "Democrats," The Times' Nate Cohn tweeted Oct. 7, "have put a long list of Republican-leaning districts into play. But it's not clear whether they actually lead in a lot of them."
So it's possible, though unlikely, Democrats could fall short in both houses. In which case I guess we can't hope for any civility from Hillary Clinton.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
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