Threats of death to Barack Obama, threats of armed revolt against the federal government- these are nothing new. But a few days ago a Virginia tea party protester said that if health care reform passed, there would be "a new civil war." A brick was thrown through the office window of a Democratic representative from New York.
And then, just yesterday, teabaggers crowded several Democratic representatives, including openly gay Barney Frank and civil rights movement veterans Jim Clyburn and John Lewis.
A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot," as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams.
The above linked article, when I read it, also came with a photo gallery of protest signs. Most of them were vile, but the worst was placed first: "If Brown Can't Stop It, a Browning Can." If you're not looking at the picture, Brown refers to Senator Scott Brown (Republican-MA); Browning is a make of firearm.
And this violence didn't stop with the signs, according to Talking Points Memo:
Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, (Representative Andre) Carson (D-IN) said people in the crowd yelled, "kill the bill and then the N-word" several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.
Death threats based on race: that's where the teabagger movement is now.
The reaction of the left to all of this was immediate and firm: such behavior is completely unacceptable. A Democratic member of Congress took the floor last night to confront Republican members on their support for the tea party movement, demanding that they stand up in public and denounce the racist and violent behavior of the teabaggers.
Dennis Palumbo of The Huffington Post sums it up pretty well:
...it's no longer just the health care bill ---it's about the Republicans' shameful silence in the face of escalating hatred and divisiveness on the part of Tea Party members. Where is the GOP leadership on this issue? Why aren't prominent Republicans on CNN and Fox News and CNBC decrying these racist and defamatory remarks?
What else does their silence indicate but agreement? Or at least a willingness to ride this growing tide of racist hatred to further their own political gain, in the upcoming mid-term elections and beyond. The health care debate has been debased into an excuse to roil frustrated Americans into an ugly, divisive frenzy, with the tacit support of the so-called mainstream GOP.
. . .
To the GOP leadership: regardless of the seats you hope to get in November in the mid-terms, you're only showing that, once again, political gain trumps the national interest.
So either speak up now, denouncing the haters, or accept that most reasonable people assume you agree with them.
At least one Republican was not at all slow in his response: specifically, to blame the Democrats for the racism.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) came to the defense of the racists and bigots who shouted slurs at members of Congress Saturday. The Tea Party protesters shouted the ‘n’ word at African American members of Congress the ‘f’ word at an openly gay member.
. . .
“When you use a totalitarian tactics, people, you know, begin to act crazy,” Nunes told C-SPAN’s Steve Scully Sunday morning when asked about the slurs. “I think that people have every right to say what they want. If they want to smear someone they can do it. It’s not appropriate--I think I would stop short of characterizing the 20,000 people protesting, that all of them were doing that.”
And when he says, "It's not appropriate," what he means is, "It's not appropriate to claim that all of the teabaggers were shouting, 'kill the bill and then the n----r.'"
He- and his fellow Republicans- are not even willing to say that it's wrong for anybody, ever, to call someone else "nigger." (Which it is. I spell out the word here only because I'm sick and tired of hiding from a word, no matter how evil the word is.)
Republicans are not even willing to say that it's wrong to call for the violent overthrow of the government.
Of course, the reason why this is is obvious. Even if you're willing to believe that most Republicans are not themselves racist (such as Paul Broun (R-GA), who equated health reform's passage to "the Yankee War of Aggression" on the House floor) or in support of the violent overthrow of the federal government (Michele Bachmann)... the party's elected officials are now utterly dependent upon the votes of those people who ARE racists, who ARE bigots, and who DO want the federal government destroyed unless they're the ones running it.
Without such voters, South Carolina and Alabama- to name but two- would be solid blue states.
And, of course, since this constituency has become the indispensable base of the Republican Party, more and more often they are electing their own to Congress- as witness Bachmann again, or Broun, or Nunes, or Jim DeMint, or any number of others. Which means that the longer the Republicans are completely dependent upon these voters for their continued survival, the more the Republican Party as a whole will resemble them.
But no elected Republican (except perhaps for Scott Brown or Olympia Snowe) dares stand up to these people and say, "You are wrong. What you say- what you advocate- is vile. I cannot and will not support or endorse these things, and I will not associate myself with people who do."
They can't do it... because these people are who got them elected in the first place.
And thus the Republican Party slips a little deeper into its identity as the Party of Evil.
EDIT: Nunes has been joined by the perennial wingnut loudmouth, Steve King (R-Iowa):
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a leading voice in the tea party movement, said Sunday that protesters’ recent use of racial and homophobic slurs toward Members of Congress was no big deal.
“I just don’t think it’s anything,” King said, emphasizing that the incidents were isolated. “There are a lot of places in this country that I couldn’t walk through. I wouldn’t live to get to the other end of it.”
Yeeeeah. "There are a lot of places in this country that...I wouldn't live to get to the other end..." Nooooothing racist in that, I don't think.
But, since there are obviously people somewhere who would kill a white man on sight, just for being white, that makes threatening black Congressmen- or even the President- hunky-dory.
My friends, I give you the Republican Party- and brother, you can HAVE it.