A angry mob of villagers protesting outside the house of a doctor, he responds by squirting a syringe at them,” by Thomas Rowlandson

October 8, 2018; Washington Post

Anyone following the news in the past few weeks must be in wonderment about just how many of those who protested Kavanaugh’s confirmation were funded by George Soros. It’s an old tactic, but one that appears to stand the test of time—namely, raising up dissidents as an angry, frenzied mob who pick up a paycheck at the end of each day from the latest rabid funder of liberalism.

The tactic seems to resonate with a part of the public, at least enough for the word “mob” to have gone viral recently amongst some who would cast themselves as rationally holding the horde at bay. Matt Vidor and Robert Costa point out that “In Virginia, Rep. David Brat (R) is running against the ‘liberal mob,’ and GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart has decried the ‘mob tactics’ that ‘tried to destroy’ Kavanaugh.”

This characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men.

The new front is a modern incarnation of the law-and-order thrusts Republicans have used before in tough campaigns, most notably 50 years ago, when Richard Nixon used the specter of rioting at the Democratic National Convention to cast the opposing party as the tool of antiwar protesters and violent malcontents.

This time, the GOP’s foil is composed of leftists, elitists and feminists, of academics and celebrities, of Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti, philanthropist George Soros and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) who has called for the president’s impeachment.

In other words, the culture war is escalating—like we didn’t know that already.

“They want to take the freedom to assemble and turn it into a negative,” said John Weaver, a Republican strategist. “‘The mob’ is trying to dehumanize and belittle and dismiss the current activism that we’re seeing around the country.”

Nowhere has this strategy been more evident than around the Kavanaugh hearings. Vidor and Costa recount the language used by Republican Senate leadership:

“They have encouraged mob rule,” Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) said on the Senate floor Friday. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) said there was “a paid mob trying to prevent senators from doing the will of their constituents,” while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wondered on twitter: “Imagine the coverage on cable news if an angry mob of conservatives stormed the steps of the Supreme Court building.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) touted: “We stood up to the mob.”

At his Saturday night rally in Topeka, Kansas, Trump joined in, asserting that “the radical Democrats have turned into an angry mob.”

Some are critical of an overuse of the language, like Karl Rove. “We shouldn’t be spiking the football and saying we are winning and the blue wave is over,” says he. “What we should be saying is, they are a bunch of radical leftists. They are the same people that want to raise your taxes and who want open borders.”

Ah yes, that sounds better.

Some radical leftists are claiming the space, like Neera Tanden, who runs the Center for American Progress, an advocacy nonprofit founded by John Podesta, former chief of staff for Bill Clinton. Her Twitter account’s name is now “Women’s Mob.”—Ruth McCambridge