The Watch

The Republicans’ New-Found Bigotry, Racism and Violence

After watching the GOP’s incredible, breathless misinformation campaign leading up to the health care reform votes, it was no big surprise that the passage of the bill triggered the Republicans’ meltdown into a party of hysterical children in the throes of full blown hissy fits. There’s no one in the Republican party who is providing any real leadership. The Republicans have been reduced to ruining the fun for everybody else on the playground. If the Republicans can’t play the game they want to play, they’re going to sit on the ball so no one else can play, either.

Since the passage of the health care reform bill, the Republicans, for the second day in a row, have withdrawn their consent for hearings to continue, so work in D.C. is grinding to a halt. Having failed to block health care reform, the Republicans seem intent on blocking everything else.

A Judiciary Committee hearing was canceled today, as well as a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on bark beetles (a species of insect that are destroying Western forests and causing damaging fires). Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, tweeted that she was “disappointed” because Republicans forced the cancellation of an oversight hearing on police training contracts if Afghanistan. Even national security oversight has been affected. A Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, for which three commanders – one of whom flew in from Korea and another from Hawaii – were to testify, was also called off.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the Republicans are acting like children and schoolyard bullies. These are the same people who stood above unruly crowds during the health care vote and stopped just short of inciting the crowds to riot. The people the Republicans were trying to inflame were Tea Party activists who had already showed the world the true face of the Republican party on Saturday by directing abusive, derogatory and racist behavior at Democrats.

If you haven’t heard of that, here’s what happened. Preceding President Obama’s speech to House Democrats, thousands of Tea Party protesters descended on the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned ugly. As Democrats walked to the venue for the president’s speech, Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo) was spat upon by a protester. Rep. John Lews (D-GA), a hero of the Civil Rights movement, was called a “nigger”. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) was called a “faggot”.

It’s only gotten worse since then. At least ten House Democrats who voted Sunday for health care reform have received violent threats to their lives or property. Several members have faced death treats and harassing phone calls. Others have experienced vandalism at district offices or their private homes. In once case, a gas line was cut outside the home of Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother after a Conservative activist posted the address online, mistaking it for the Congressman’s home. The FBI is investigating.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) referenced the online campaign by the Republican National Committee to “Fire Pelosi” and an e-mail from Sarah Palin’s PAC that depicted targets / crosshairs over the congressional districts of some Democrats who voted for the health care bill.

“When people start talking in the rhetoric of putting people on firing lines,” said Hoyer, “that if they don’t do something they will have physical harm done to them … or they put a target on their faces with crosshairs, that activity ought not to be acceptable in our democracy.”

Republicans, drifting ever farther from reality, trotted out Republican National Committee Communications Director Doug Heye to offer up perhaps the lamest counter-punch in recent political history, in which he said, “When Gov. Sarah Palin is treated like a pinata every day, Democrats and a willing media give the polite golf clap.”

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall angry mobs, incited by Fox News, outside of Sarah Palin’s offices, calling her a “cunt”. I don’t recall the Democratic Party placing pictures of Republicans online with targets over their faces and calling for Americans to “fire them”. I don’t recall Sarah Palin’s offices or home being vandalized or her gas lines being cut. I don’t recall death threats being against her and her family. What I do recall is Sarah Palin being criticized for not being able to string together a coherent sentence. To compare that with the vitriol and hatred and threats of physical violence and even murder that Democrats have been facing seems more than a little delusional.

It doesn’t bode well for political discourse in the United States when one side of the spectrum is calling for the physical harm of the other. While I’m not one to throw around Nazi imagery without good cause, it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to imagine brown-shirts in the streets of America attacking anyone who disagrees with them. At this point it’s not a stretch to wonder if the angry Tea Party wackos who shouted such words as “nigger” and “faggot” at Democratic lawmakers might some day lead to America’s own Night of the Long Knives.  Especially when the Republicans are already placing targets over the faces of Democrats whose pictures they’ve placed online.

We are on shaky ground here. The Republicans have offered up no real plans or options of their own. “Republican leadership” is increasingly becoming an oxymoron. In the absence of original ideas, the Republicans, and their Tea Party constituents, have decided to stand in the middle of the proverbial hallway and attempt to block anyone from passing, threatening physical violence and even death to anyone who dares stand against them. We all know that the Republicans and their flunkies on Fox News are little more than toothless bullies who whine like little kids when things don’t go their way. Unfortunately, there are lunatics out there who can’t see the Republicans’ empty rhetoric for the political grandstanding that it really is.

When it finally comes down to a Democratic lawmaker being shot down by an assassin’s bullet or dying in the flames of a home that’s been set ablaze by ideologue, I, for one, will lay full blame at the feet of the Republicans. They’ve been all-too-willing to cater to the nutjobs in the Tea Party movement for quick political gain. The Republicans will have to pay the price when their chickens come home to roost.

At this point all one can hope for is that the American extremists don’t rally around their own charismatic ideologues like Sarah Palin and set flame to the noble experiment that is American democracy.

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