Senate Democrats live in a dark world full of threatening conspiracies, but it’s one Richard Hofstadter — the Columbia University historian and author of “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” — would instantly recognize.

Hofstadter was a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor when he wrote the Harper’s Magazine feature with that title during the 1964 campaign. Democrats, led by President Lyndon B. Johnson, used it to slander Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential nominee. They’ve used variations on the theme against the GOP in every election since then.

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But Hofstadter made it clear in his Harper’s analysis that the kind of political paranoia he was describing could be found across the ideological spectrum throughout American political history.

Here’s how he defined it:

“But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing,” Hofstadter wrote. “I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Had Hofstadter been watching, he would have seen an abundance of those characteristics on the Democratic side during Tuesday’s opening day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed the retiring Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

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Take Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), for example, who in his opening statement looked at Kavanaugh and responded with a heaping helping of that “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.”

What Whitehouse described as “the Roberts Five” is the group of Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices led by Chief Justice John Roberts (appointed by President George W. Bush) and including justices Clarence Thomas (appointed by President George H.W. Bush), Samuel Alito (George W. Bush), Neil Gorsuch (President Donald Trump), and Anthony Kennedy (President Ronald Reagan). Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would replace the retiring Kennedy.

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Whitehouse believes the Roberts Five is an ongoing conspiracy to advance partisan Republican and corporate interests at the expense of everybody else: “Every time a big Republican corporate or partisan interest is involved, the big Republican interest wins. Every. Time.”

Just in case his hearers missed his point, Whitehouse emphasized: “Let me repeat: In 73 partisan decisions where there’s a big Republican interest at stake, the big Republican interest wins. Every. Damned. Time.”

Here’s the litany of Republican and corporate interests Whitehouse see the Roberts Five conspiracy protecting: “helping big business bust unions … let corporate polluters pollute … rubber-stamping President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim travel ban … help Republicans gerrymander elections … keep minority voters away from the polls …” And much, much more along similar lines.

But most important, there’s the criminal Whitehouse sees in the Oval Office: “Finally, you come before us nominated by a president named in open court as directing criminal activity, and a subject of ongoing criminal investigation.

“You displayed expansive views on executive immunity from the law. If you are in that seat because the White House has big expectations that you will protect the president from the due process of law, that should give every senator pause.”

“He got on that list after this special investigation got going. In other words, after the president was in jeopardy.”

Like Whitehouse, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J., shown above left) also saw a conspiracy, but this one was to sneak Kavanaugh onto the nation’s highest court after Trump previously released two lists of potential nominees he would consider, neither of which included the man the president actually selected.

“In all of this, we have one judge being chosen who was not on the original list,” Booker said. “He wasn’t on the outsourced Federalist Society original list. He wasn’t on the second version of that list. He got on that list after this special investigation got going. In other words, after the president was in jeopardy.”

In fact, Kavanaugh has been prominently mentioned in the mainstream media for years as a potential Republican president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, including in 2017 in the weeks before Trump selected Justice Neil Gorsuch.

So those surprised by Kavanaugh’s name appearing among potential nominees either haven’t been listening for a long time or are troubled by deep, ungrounded suspicions of perfidious machinations by unseen malicious powers.

Booker, who has recently been raising money by asking donors to help him “Stop Kavanaugh,” is expected to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Finally, there is Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif., shown above right) and the conspiracy to hide the truth about Kavanaugh’s record, along with the estimated 1 million documents from his years working in the Bush White House that have not been made public for a multitude of legitimate reasons having to do with executive privilege, national security, and separation of powers.

In her opening statement, Harris opined that she “would think that anyone who wanted to sit on the nation’s highest court would be proud of their record and would want the American people to see it. I would think anyone privileged to be nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States would want to be confirmed in a process that is not under a cloud, that respects due process.”

Related: Booker Insinuates Trump Picked Kavanaugh to Rig Probe

It’s doubtful that Kavanaugh disagreed with those assertions, but then Harris delivered the paranoid style’s most characteristic zinger, the imputation of sinister motives and concealed criminality:

“I would think anyone nominated for the Supreme Court of the United States would want to have a hearing that is characterized by transparency and fairness and integrity, and not shrouded by uncertainty and suspicion and concealment and doubt.”

The reality is that more documents about Kavanaugh’s professional record, personal finances and court rulings were made available to the Senate than for any previous Supreme Court nominee, ever.

In other words, the Kavanaugh nomination is the most transparent ever, but it’s the nature of paranoid politics to see only the malevolent, the ominous and malignant. The American Bar Association gave Kavanaugh its highest possible rating, but Harris and her polarizing colleagues can see only a dangerous man.

Somewhere, populist demagogues of the past such as South Carolina Democrat Pitchfork Ben Tillman and Mississippi Democrat Theodore Bilbo — masters of the paranoid style — are nudging each other in the ribs and hooting about what their partisan descendants are doing today.