“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Hillary Clinton told CNN on 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 lays out the terms and conditions under which civility will be appropriate again. “If 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 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 "doxxed" and crowds gather to attack.
[Related: Cory Gardner responds to Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton: 'This is not who we are']
Asked if Democrats 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.
Until Democrats win, a Republican senator out raking leaves can expect to be attacked and have multiple ribs broken by an angry Democratic neighbor. The House Republican softball team cannot yet relax in the knowledge that some raging left-winger won’t 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 addresses in the Congressional Directory. If you could have found one of those cumbersome earlier copiers, 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’ conspicuous failure to denounce violence and intimidation — or assault and battery, as we know them in criminal law. That’s because their allies at news outlets like CNN have been bristling when the howling and threatening protesters against Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination 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 from the Senate gallery.
Democrats might reasonably reply that Donald Trump offered to pay legal costs for an 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. In some close Senate races recent polls show Republicans gaining — in Arizona, in Nevada, in Tennessee, and in Texas.
The cumulative effect is that, for the first time in months, Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com 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 that the website gave Donald Trump of winning just before the 2016 election.
Many, though not all, post-Kavanaugh polls show enthusiasm about voting among Republican voters increasing, for the first time this cycle, to the same 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 significantly ahead of earlier Democrats. But these comprise less than half of the 68 seats rated as tossups or merely "leaning" to one party or the other by the Cook Political Report, and 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, Democrats similarly ahead by in 12, and 10 tied or with a 1 point lead for one party. “Democrats,” the Times’s Nate Cohn tweeted Oct. 7, “have put a long list of Republican-leaning seats 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.