Cornered by own failed strategy, Republicans reluctant to rebuke threats against Legislators

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:

  • First there were the March 20 incidents near the nation’s Capitol; where Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) was spit upon by a protester; “Barney, you f**got,” was shouted at Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA); and Democratic Congressmen Andre Carson (IN) and John Lewis (GA) were the targets of racial epithets shouted by protesters.
  • On March 21, following the House’s passage of health care reform, a propane gas line connected to the house of Rep. Thomas Perriello’s (D-VA) brother was cut; apparently, it was  at the behest of online suggestions from various Virginia Tea Party factions, one of whom mistakenly published the brother’s address instead of the Congressman’s.
  • Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and James Clyburn (D-SC) both received faxes depicting noose at their respective congressional offices, March 24.  Additionally, Stupak has received numerous threatening phone calls and messages since last Sunday’s House vote.
  • March 25, an envelope containing “white powder” was received at the office of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) along with a letter directing the Congressman to “Drop Dead.”

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.

See Also:

  • TPM‘s Christina Bellatoni reports, “Health Care Repeal Wars Fracturing GOP Primary Candidates.”
  • On her blog at The Nation Professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell makes the distinction between protest and sedition while placing the week’s events in their appropriate historical context.
  • Blogger Russel King invites conservatives to “come back to us” in an open letter.  King’s post employs dozens of links outlining the GOP’s pursuit of the strategy which has brought it to its present, lowly state. The post is an incredible resource and a must read.

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Linda M.
Linda M6 years ago

everyone, please sign and share:

thanks so much

Janice P.
Janice P6 years ago

Muriel C. is correct. The right wing has so terrified many people that they just might vote right wing in the next election. I have been trying to talk sense on a right wing website, and I had to give up. Regardless of what I say, the commentators there keep chanting the same words and phrases, as if they have been brainwashed. It is so evident from the things they say and the way they say them, that they are scared to death. One of our own members admitted to me that he is frightened by the things he has read and heard from these sources. It is a very effective way of running for office: campaigning by terror.

I hope that calm and reason can prevail before we all destroy one another. It is very disquieting to see our nation devolve into wholesale fear.

Muriel C.
Muriel C6 years ago

Unfortunately yes. The Republicans have managed to demonize the Democrats so much, that -even against their own best interest- the moderates will continue to vote Republican out of fear.

Janice P.
Janice P6 years ago

How on earth did this conversation turn into an issue of religion? This is one BIG problem in our country - and in many other countries, for that matter. So many issues turn into arguments over religion.

This is an issue of VIOLENCE, not one of religion. If we do not calm our baser instincts toward violence, we will not have to worry about religion. We will have all destroyed each other.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C6 years ago

As for Franklin his view early on was in a Deity but once his life went south he went back to his Purtian ways. So to put it politely they did draft it on Christian values what was odds was how big a Government and the slaves read their own drafts.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C6 years ago

Glenna i respect your explanation however i don't recall there being any Muslisms, buddhists, hindu's that formed the constitution, there were pagans an atheists but they were the ones that did not sign it, and after that most of these people went on to open our now famous teaching houses, the Yale's an so forth, and if you read up on them most all signed in Christ's name. i take that as they believed in GOD, but used the word Creator instead. Just my take on it.

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik6 years ago

But Craig, the constitution DOES NOT SAY all rights come from GOD. It says they are endowed by their creator. Now, since I assume that you are Christian, you believe that means GOD. A Muslim might believe that it means ALLAH, a Buddhist would think BUDDHA (although he is not worshiped as we do G-d) - to a Hindu it would be one of several deities, to a Pagan, the Mother Goddess and to an Atheist it might just mean something greater than they. GOD is finite - Creator is open to interpretation.
The founding fathers took great pains to say there was NO LITMUS TEST - Although no Atheist or Agnostic that we know of has ever been elected to high office; it also means that he forefathers never precluded Atheists or Agnostics from holding office.
So, to try to answer your question, I don't think it HAS been lost. Non believers may not believe in a GOD. However people spell God or not or whether people call their Deity by some other name or no name at all - that word Creator is open. What matters is that these people are ethical or moral. YOU really DON'T have to believe in a higher power to be moral or ethical - one either is or is not. Many Christians tend to view persons as either lost or saved & they were commanded in the Bible to tell the Good News. Universalists believed that everyone is saved - no matter what.
This IS America a melting pot of varying religions & ethnicities. It is diverse & must remain that way.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C6 years ago

Glenna you are right the point i was trying to make is this, they all signed the constitution whatever their backgrounds, they said ALL RIGHTS come from GOD. Where has that been lost to those that do believe. Otherwise they would have refrained from signing it yes or no? I have gone back and re-read their thoughts, that's why i ask this question.

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik7 years ago

Craig, While you are correct in the idea that it is probably NOT the mainstream Baptists, Methodists, Catholics or Lutherans who are brandishing weapons & preaching hate-Those who don't believe in a GOD are not doing so either.
You can't lump all nonbelievers in one pile or lump believers in one pile. It doesn't work. The founding fathers may have had a belief in a GOD; many might not have believed in Jesus or that you had to walk an aisle; profess a belief in Jesus & be immersed in order to be saved. Many believed in universal salvation. The Unitarians - of which Jefferson, Franklin, the Adams and many others belonged to-were around for the council of Nicea. What they did believe in was common decency and ethics-neither of which require a belief in a deity. If all that is holding you back from raping your neighbor; or taking their belongings is a vague idea that 'God's gonna get you for that' - then are you ethical? If an Atheist or an Agnostic doesn't rape or steal or murder-just because they don't believe it is right to do so-to me holds more weight than not raping, stealing, killing etc because it is not OK with a GOD. It is either right or not right period.
There are also many countries who are theocracies-ruled by the word of God, Allah or the Great Potato. Al Queda & the Taliban who rule with the word of Allah are in Iran. Americans have no litmus test to pass on belief to be Americans. Non-believers belong here too - right along withe the believers.

Craig Chmiel
Craig C7 years ago

What i find hard to believe is how people can group these people from Michigan in with the Presbyterian,Baptist, Catholic an Christians in one group, with that said if they had the beliefs like them, this Country would not be here today. You see people that really have faith would not do these acts period. Now if you choose not to believe in a God thats your choice, here is the deal there are many a country that holds that way of life, i say move on! With most Americans from 70-78% who hold a faith that's quite a number of people who have different views, and that to me is the majority!!!!!