Yesterday Rep. Eric Cantor (R, VA) announced his office had been shot at and pointed fingers at Democrats for escalating political rhetoric to the point of inciting violence. When asked if she was going to denounce the attacks on members of Congress, Michelle Bachmann (R, MN) balked, blaming Democrats for pushing an “unpopular” and “anti-American” health care bill. Now Rep. Cantor’s claim has unravelled. It turns out the office in question was neither shot at nor even in his Congressional district. So who is escalating the rhetoric now?
The recent rise of domestic terrorism and extremist violence has been well documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and in an interview yesterday on National Public Radio, the connection between GOP lawmakers and the extremest right came into even greater focus. According to Mark Potok, editor of the investigative journal Intelligence Report mainstream GOP leaders are creating a very scary situation. A new poll from Harris interactive shows that 40% of Americans believe President Obama is a socialist while 14% say he may be the Antichrist.
The modern Tea Party movement may not be to blame, but they are certainly at the center of this renewed vigor by right wing extremist groups. Potok mentioned the number of conspiracy theories circulating in their ranks, such as the Reconquista- a secret plan by Mexico to re-conquer the American Southwest or of FEMA secretly building a series of concentration camps for Americans who resist the coming martial law. The concentration camp theory was spun by Glenn Beck on three episodes of his show before he finally decided it was just a rumor. Follow that up with an off-the-cuff comment by Michelle Bachmann about President Obama and plans for “reeducation camps” and its easy to see how these ideas start to gain political traction.
Not only is this situation spinning dangerously out of control, but ultimately, it is the American public that stands to lose the most. Democracy works best with a multitude of policy opinions, with an open and honest debate over the issues. The Republicans, currently lacking in any real policy initiatives other than to continue to bleed the country dry at the expense of the middle and working class, seem set to sit back and let the radical right drive the conversation. That means a return of racially tinged “literacy tests” for voting, flirtations with secession, and, worst of all, passive suggestions that violence against members of Congress is not only acceptable, but justified.
photo courtesy of escapedtowisconsin via Flickr
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