The numerous threats and acts of vandalism leveled against lawmakers this past week have put the Republican leadership in a tight spot. They’ve been reluctant to offer a stern rebuke of the criminal behavior which has, by and large, been directed at Democrats. It could cost the GOP voters in the long run, but the alternative could hurt them much sooner.
Let’s begin, though, with a closer look at the week in anti-health care reform rage:
The above doesn’t even come close to listing the number of incidents.
The response from concerned Democratic leaders has been to call for civility, even inviting Republicans join them. That invitation was declined, and what has ensued is the usual finger pointing that we’ve grown accustomed to from our political parties.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MI), following a meeting with the Republican leadership, suggested that the GOP wasn’t doing enough to condemn the threats. The response from the Republicans, aside from being wholly inadequate, has been to redirect the blame.
Indeed, Republicans and the conservative media have sought to blame Democrats for the tensions. Responding to the criticism from Hoyer and others, both, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) did condemn the threats, but only after qualifying their statements, appearing to voice their empathy for those who would commit such acts.
Hands down, the best example of this — Blame the Democrats for doing what they were elected to do — argument came from House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA). Cantor’s assessment of Democratic blame came along with the mother of all false equivalences.
While blaming Democrats for exploiting health care related threats, Cantor announced to the press, “Just recently I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week…”
Of course, Fox News took the ball and ran with it, but the police reports revealed that this was not the ‘direct threat’ Cantor described. The bullet — which broke through the window but lacked the momentum to get through the blinds — was not from some angry liberal. Rather, it was a random fire, the projectile entered Cantor’s office at the behest of gravity’s pull.
Ironic, is it not? The ‘direct threat’ Cantor spoke of makes a better argument for stricter gun control laws than it does against the Democrats.
It should be noted that there have been threats against Republicans. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) reportedly received a threatening voicemail March 24, and “at least two bricks were thrown” through a window at the Albermarle County Republican headquarters in Virginia.
But, if Republicans have been threatened, why hasn’t there been an appropriate call for calm, with or without the Democrats, from the GOP leadership?
I suppose they can’t. The cynical path the GOP employed in order to thwart reform presently limits their options.
They could lower the — Health Reform = “Armageddon” – noise, and offer a full throated rebuke of death threats and the like. Their alternative is to continue as they have for more than a year now, fostering the atmosphere of fear which inspires the type of behavior we’re presently experiencing.
Though the first option is clearly the most rational, it’s also the course the Republican Party is least likely to pursue. It would ascribe a measure of legitimacy to the Democrats, the denial of which has been their guiding principle since Barack Obama took the oath of office. It also carries a significant risk of alienating their most ardent supporters who’ve wholeheartedly bought into the propaganda. No doubt, the GOP sees this as political suicide.
But pursuing the alternative only prolongs the same outcome. This is exactly what David Frum was getting at when he held a mirror up to the GOP and their anti-reform strategy:
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
What remains of the dwindling number of Republican moderates know this to be true. And should the reactionaries continue the threats and actions mentioned above, it will only serve to speed their abandonment.
They’ll jump ship for the same reason liberals would leave the Democrats if the shoe were on the other foot. They’d leave because not denouncing such thuggish behavior promotes the idea theses acts of intimidation represent a legitimate form of protest.
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Read more: barney frank, bart stupak, congress, death threats, emanuel cleaver, eric cantor, gop, health care, james clyburn, john boehner, john lewis, politics, reform, republicans, steny hoyer, thomas perriello, vandalism
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