Politics 2018; hypocrisy wins

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Unless they break laws, the 'mob' is just Americans exercising their rights.

MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE the folks who study such things say attention spans are growing shorter and shorter in this age when information overload is a staple of everyday life.

In fact, a Pew Research study of more than 5,000 people found 7 in 10 report "news fatigue" - too much coming at them from all directions at all times.

Possibly that's why some seem to forget the incivilities from one side of the political divide when faced with incivilities from the other side.

Or, just as likely, it's because of that old staple in the world of politics - simple hypocrisy.

THE MOST COMMON PHRASE in the new talking points for the Republican Party as the 2018 midterm elections grow closer is "mob rule."

The phrase is being repeated up and down the party and references what supporters view as the mistreatment of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Democrats and protesters. The story goes on that Republican senators were exposed to the "mob" as protesters around the Capitol got loud and sometimes in their face. Street action of all kinds by opponents is being painted as "mob" action. Some have even drawn in the shooting last year at a congressional softball practice and blamed it on the "mob."

The strategy is transparent. Equate Democrats with anger, violence and opposition to law and order as the Nov. 6 election approaches. The message: Be very afraid if Democrats win.

OK, LET'S GO BACK in time just a little to around 2010, and subsequent years. It wasn't Democrats holding the big protest rallies. It wasn't Democrats getting in politicians' faces and storming town hall meetings. It wasn't Democrats being loud and getting in incumbent politicians' faces.

The conservative base - and the rise of the Tea Party - rocked Democrats' world with raucous rallies and confrontational tactics.

And it worked. Republicans swept the elections and installed conservative majorities both nationally and in state after state. The result has been a strong resurgence among conservatives as their representatives have been able to govern and install policies in Washington and many statehouses.

Wisconsin is a clear example. The state largely was considered blue before 2010, when voters swept Scott Walker into the governorship and handed Republicans majorities in both houses of the legislature. In 2016, Wisconsin went for Donald Trump, the first Republican to carry the state in decades.

ANGER WORKS TO motivate the base, as every close political observer knows. It worked for Republicans to turn around the party's sinking fortunes prior to 2010. And anger over Trump may or may not work for Democrats who are hoping for a blue wave this November.

Short memories and hypocrisy aside, both sides resort to stoking anger.

As Americans, though, we also should keep this in mind. Look at the top of this page, where the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is reproduced. It guarantees the right of the people to peaceably assemble and seek redress of their grievances. That means dissent and protest is enshrined in the nation's founding document and supreme law.

Mind you, "peaceably" means nonviolent. The Constitution does not condone criminal conduct. But it does mean the people are not required to be passive with the political crowd. Your mother might have put it this way: Look and speak, but don't touch.

So, think of this like everything else viewed across the political divide - the language depends on who is making the noise. If it's your side, it's patriots standing up for their rights. If it's the other side, it's a mob.

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