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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Republican Party Ignites Violence

The big question in Washington D.C. and around the nation right now is whether the Republican Party is responsible for the current violence against Democratic members of the congress after passage of health care reform. Given what has been going on the last 14-months it should be no surprise that it has culminated in violence against those in favor of reform. During the town hall health care meetings last year I can recall distinctly watching Chuck Grassley, the long time Iowa Senator standing uncomfortably in front of constituents who very loudly denounced the "death panels" provision they believe existed in the health care reform bill. Sarah Palin herself condemned this part of the bill as she claimed it would be used to euthanize her son with Down syndrome. Grassley said that the death panels would be used to "pull the plug on Grandma". Now if I were a member of the tea party and I saw prominent members of the Republican Party affirming the existence of these panels then I might be inclined to believe these panels existed. And if I believed they existed, I think I would get very upset. Upset enough to get violent perhaps.

Herein lies the problem: there were no death panels, these panels are nothing more then a right wing fantasy. But one person's fantasy can become another's truth unless quickly rebutted. Grassley lacked the courage to address this untruth either because he was afraid he would lose their votes or because he was physically afraid of the mobs that confronted him. Then Grassley went one step further: he recommended the provision in dispute which actually referred to living wills be removed from the health reform bill because it was "confusing." So, Grassley not only failed to confront these people with the truth, he placated and encouraged them by reacting to the fantastical claim as if it were true.

Similarly, the Republicans have been loathe to confront birthers who contest Obama having been born in the United States. On this issue the Republicans once again sought to placate this claim. Republican Representative John Campbell of California announced that he would move on legislation to insure that each Presidential candidate show proof of birth. Campbell, like Grassley became a facilitator of ludicrous claims against Obama and the Government. Instead of doing his job and telling the people the truth, he found it easier to mollify them by acting as if these things were true. When the leaders of a mainstream party act as if the most ridiculous claims are true, how can we expect the uninformed and uneducated to understand what is going on? The Republicans are clearly fueling the madness. If mainstream politicians tell the people that the American Government plans to kill elderly Americans with their health care plan, then violence becomes a reasonable option. A lack of responsibility by Republicans can be directly linked to the irrationally rabid response of the tea party types and their brethren. Then, as the passage of health care reform got closer to reality the encouragement of violence by the Republicans became more direct. Hours before passage of the health care bill, protesting tea partyers called African-American lawmakers the "N" word and spit on them. Openly gay Representative Barney Frank was met with homosexual slurs as he too entered the capitol. Shortly after, Devin Nunes, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from California was interviewed on C-Span. When he was asked about the name calling and spitting directed toward his house colleagues he replied:

"I think when you use totalitarian tactics people begin to act crazy, people have every right to smear someone, they can do it, its not appropriate, I would stop short of characterizing twenty thousand people...[in this light]"



You would think that the first thing out of Representative Nunes' mouth would be a stern critique of the behavior described. Instead, he defends it as being an expected result of "totalitarian tactics". This is the first time I have ever heard voting by elected representatives described as totalitarian. And lest we forget, the Senate Health Bill passed 60-40. That is called a super majority. The final House Health Bill passed with a seven vote plurality. The Reconciliation Bill passed 54-43 in the Senate and by eight votes in the House. When a member of congress describes the normal workings of our democracy in such a misleading way, he necessarily fans the flames of malcontents. Soon after passage of the Health Bill, Democrats in various states complained of bricks being thrown through their office windows and threatening messages left on answering machines. Automobiles of Democrat politicians have been vandalized and the brother of one politician had the gas line to his home severed when his address was published on the internet.

The Republicans attempted to avoid being associated with these acts and sent Eric Cantor, the Republican whip to make a statement. He said he too had been the victim of harassment, by a bullet though his office window no less. A police investigation determined later that the bullet had actually been fired straight up in the air and then had fallen through the window of an office occasionally used by the congressman. The police stated that the bullet had not actually been aimed at Mr. Cantor's office. Anyway, Cantor wanted us to know he felt the Democrat's pain.

The Republicans have stirred the pot of this populist rage with blatant lies from death panels to the Health Bill having been passed undemocratically. Their deliberate campaign of misinformation has led to the point where for many people violence is an acceptable reaction.

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