Opinion writer

At a rally in Iowa on Tuesday night, President Trump once again cast the Democratic opposition as the “angry, left-wing mob” and mocked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for supposedly leaking word of Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Brett M. Kavanaugh. The crowd responded with a lusty chant of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” Trump smiled approvingly.

This moment nicely captures the throbbing big lie at the core of the closing argument that Trump and Republicans hope will salvage their House and Senate majorities. If the candidates backed by the “angry mob” win in sufficient numbers, we will get not lawlessness but rather the beginnings of a check on Trump’s lawlessness, which, as it happens, was displayed right there in that very same “lock her up” moment.

In this sense, Trump is right to fear the angry mob — anger means political engagement among voters who oppose Trump, and political engagement makes a Democratic-controlled House more likely, and with it, an effort to establish real accountability and oversight on a corrupt, unchecked, out-of-control presidency.

New numbers out this morning illustrate that the anger really does appear to be translating into an intention to vote.

A new Politico-Morning Consult poll finds that voters say by 46 percent to 40 percent that the Senate was “wrong” to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, but also that the battle over Kavanaugh is energizing Democratic voters more than Republican ones:

Following the GOP-led effort to push through his nomination, enthusiasm among Democratic voters has surged. More than 3 in 4 Democrats (77 percent) say they are “very motivated” to turn out and vote in the midterms — more than the 68 percent of Republicans who say they’re “very motivated.”

This is a spike of 10 points in Democratic enthusiasm from last month, when 67 percent of Democrats said they were very motivated. By contrast, according to the poll, last month Republican enthusiasm was roughly where it is now.

That’s only one poll, but it’s borne out by other polling. This week’s CNN survey, which found Democrats holding a 13-point lead among likely voters in the battle for the House, finds that 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic about voting, up seven points since last month. By contrast, that number is only 52 percent among Republicans, showing almost zero movement. Perhaps the CNN poll is an outlier; it’s likely that amid the Kavanaugh brawl public sentiment has been very volatile.

But Axios has new numbers today that take a longer view. Axios looked at 19 competitive House districts that had competitive primaries in both parties this cycle and in 2014, the last midterm election. Axios compared Democratic vs. Republican voter turnout in these primaries and found:

Democratic voter turnout in this year’s House primaries increased in each of the 19 competitive, comparable House districts compared to 2014, and doubled in more than two thirds of them. That’s far better than Republican voter turnout, which increased in 14 of those districts but didn’t double in any of them.

As Axios notes, the fact that Democratic turnout surged in these particular 19 districts (see Axios’s chart for a rundown of them) shows that Democratic enthusiasm is up not just in very blue areas, but also in more swingy areas that could decide control of the House.

The big lie at the core of Trump’s closing midterm message

The attacks on the “angry mob” that opposed Kavanaugh are very much bound up with the idea that a Democratic victory means an outbreak of lawlessness. In just about every conceivable way, the claim is the opposite of the truth.

First, take this in the context of the Kavanaugh battle. Echoing Trump’s message, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) recently claimed that vows by Democrats to continue investigating the process leading to Kavanaugh’s confirmation mean Democrats want to “turn the law upside down.” But Democrats have promised to reexamine how Senate Republicans and the White House limited the FBI’s reopened background check and have sought release of the FBI report itself. These would restore transparency and reveal how Trump and Senate Republicans subverted a serious fact-finding effort.

Or take immigration, which is central to the evocation of Democratic lawlessness. Trump has a new piece in USA Today that claims Democrats want “open borders.” This is a lie — most Democrats back comprehensive immigration reform, which means nothing of the sort, and even Democrats who want to reconfigure Immigration and Customs Enforcement don’t want to end border enforcement. But what’s more interesting is what a Democratic House would actually mean on this issue: increased oversight on Trump’s cruel and destructive immigration agenda, and possibly investigations into bad-faith abuses of government process that produced humanitarian disasters such as the child separations policy. This means a check on Trump’s cruelties and abuses of power.

The other day, we learned from a New York Times exposé that Trump’s whole self-made businessman mystique is based on hundreds of millions of dollars that he garnered through massive, far-reaching tax fraud. A Democratic House means a serious effort to shake loose Trump’s tax returns, which Republicans have actively helped shield from public view, and real oversight on Trump’s nonstop self-dealing.

After the election, Trump is expected to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replace him with someone who might constrain special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. A Republican victory means a continued House GOP effort to help Trump harass and undermine that probe — which has included trying to redirect law enforcement toward Trump’s political foes, in “lock her up” fashion — and protection for Trump if he does shut Mueller down. A Democratic House means an end to that GOP harassment effort — and at least some form of accountability, possibly in the form of impeachment, if he does go full authoritarian.

If Trump fears the “angry mob,” it’s for good reason. It threatens a restoration of oversight and accountability, and a serious effort, on multiple fronts, to check his raging, out-of-control lawlessness.