A CNN screen graphic bluntly asked on the morning of Tuesday's midterms elections, "Will fear win?" I think the answer is "yes," but not necessarily for the same reasons as the Chyron With Attitude.
CNN was referring to President Donald Trump's aggressive rhetoric against illegal immigration, sending troops to the border, and warning of the consequences of Democratic victories in the 2018 elections. It wasn't alone in portraying the race as Democrats Vs. The Fearmongerers.
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The Washington Post reported Sunday that Trump is "painting an astonishingly apocalyptic vision of America under Democratic control in the campaign’s final days, unleashing a torrent of falsehoods and portraying his political opponents as desiring crime, squalor and poverty."
On the front page of the New York Times Tuesday, readers were greeted with the headline, "Voters To Decide After A Campaign Driven By Division," and a lede sentence about how President Trump had "closed out an us-against-them midterm election campaign that was built on dark themes of fear nationalism and racial animosity in an effort to salvage Republican control of Congress for the remaining two years of his term."
Yet there's been plenty of fear and intimidation from the left, too. Here are just a few examples of over-the-top attacks, alarmism and outlandish comparisons in just the past few months that have helped poison the political arena:
- In an era where you can't go 20 seconds without hearing about calls for civility and decency, 2020 Democratic White House contenders Eric Holder and Michael Avenatti dismissed Michelle Obama's much-praised 2016 line that "when they go low, we go high." Avenatti said, "When they go low, we hit harder." Holder quipped, "When they low, we kick 'em."
- GQ writer and CNN panelist Julia Ioffe said Trump had radicalized more people than the Islamic State, a genocidal death cult responsible for terrorist attacks, beheadings, and innumerable atrocities.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) called Trump "the most racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted president in history."
- MSNBC host Joe Scarborough likened the president to Adolph Hitler, reading out a contemporaneous psychological profile of the Nazi Germany leader that included such personality characteristics as never admitting fault and repeatedly lying.
- Comedian Chelsea Handler tweeted Republicans think "rape is fine" and they want to "keep minorities and women down."
- Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, said "civility can start again" when Democrats win the midterms. She said it was not possible to be "civil" with a party that wanted to "destroy what you stand for."
- CNN hosts Don Lemon and Brooke Baldwin separately scolded conservative guests for referring to mobs banging on the Supreme Court doors and screaming at Republican politicians over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation as … mobs. Lemon has previously stated Trump wants to incite a civil war.
- Speaking of Kavanaugh, he was accused of facilitating gang rapes and drugging women at parties in the 1980s in the aftermath of his initial confirmation hearings, in addition to other sexual misconduct allegations that were uncorroborated by any direct evidence and not made public until the 11th hour. Democratic Senators like Kirsten Gillibrand and Mazie Hirono suggested he did not enjoy a presumption of innocence because of his conservatism and said his not desiring an FBI investigation was not the behavior of an "innocent person."
- Parkland shooting survivor and gun control activist David Hogg said 2018 "could be the last election of our lifetime." That would be pretty bad, if true. He's also called Republicans supported by the NRA "disgusting f—kers that want to keep killing our children."
- HBO host Bill Maher said he wanted the economy to get hit by a recession in order to stop Trump, and he didn't back off the remarks following criticism. "A recession is a survivable event," Maher said. "What Trump is doing to this country is not."
- Rosie O'Donnell called Trump "evil," "dark," and suggested the military should forcibly remove him from the White House. Her fellow MSNBC panelists laughed.
- Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) called on supporters to harass Trump administration officials when they were in public.
- After a far-right Trump supporter mailed explosive devices to more than a dozen prominent Democratic officials and Trump critics, CNN aired a screen graphic reading, "Trump has no plans to claim any personal responsibility for inciting serial bomber." Another graphic said, "Trump accepts no responsibility after stoking political violence."
- Democratic congressional candidates have likened Trump and his election win to Osama bin Laden and September 11, respectively.
Whoever emerges triumphant on Tuesday, you could say "fear" won out. If it's Democrats who wind up in charge of Congress, though, don't expect anyone to point that out.