Republicans allow things to get ugly, dangerous and frightening


AMERICA:Right-wingers are using threats and vandalism to intimidate those who voted for healthcare Bill, writes LARA MARLOWE

IN AMERICAN slang, a “wingnut” is a mentally deranged person, someone who advocates extreme measures. “Lunatic fringe” is a simile, as in the title of John Avlon’s book, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America.

Last Sunday’s passage of the healthcare Bill brought the wingnuts out of the woodwork. The right-wing fringe are using threats and vandalism to intimidate and punish those who voted to extend medical insurance to 32 million people. And Republican Party leaders are letting them do it. It is ugly, dangerous and frightening. If it continues, somebody is going to get hurt.

In the most serious incident to date, Mike Troxel, a member of a right-wing Tea Party group in Virginia, posted what he thought was the home address of Democratic congressman Tom Perriello in a blog, urging readers to “Drop by . . . and express their thanks regarding his vote for healthcare”. Soon after, someone cut the gas line to the house, which was in fact Perriello’s brother’s. Local authorities told the New York Times it was “a deliberate act of vandalism” and that “leaking gas could have posed a danger if there had been an ignition source”.

“We know where you live” is the message conveyed to supporters of Barack Obama. Someone left a coffin on the lawn of Representative Russ Carnahan’s home in Missouri. In Cincinnati, protesters gathered outside the home of Representative Steve Driehaus, who also voted for the healthcare Bill, after his address was published in a conservative blog.

Before the vote, House minority leader John Boehner said: “Take Steve Driehaus, for example. He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati.” Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, announced that more than 10 Democratic members of Congress have received threats since Sunday’s vote.

Mike Vanderboegh, an Alabama militia member, took credit for a wave of broken windows at Democratic Party offices across the country. In an interview with Fox News, Vanderboegh said, “I am telling you, we are motivated to break windows. We feel a deadly threat from the federal government”.

Vanderboegh is scheduled to speak at a “Show Your Guns” rally in Virginia, the closest place to Washington where the gun enthusiasts could legally display their weapons. They chose April 19th because it was the first day of the American Revolution, the anniversary of the FBI’s 1993 siege of Waco Texas (86 killed), and the anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a Federal building in Oklahoma City two years later (168 killed). Vanderboegh threatened “a thousand little Wacos”.

Perhaps the most frightening things about the vandalism and intimidation is the way it is tolerated, if not openly condoned, by Republican leaders. On, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, is shown against a background of flames. It’s a fundraising site for the Republican National Committee.

Or take Sarah Palin’s response to the healthcare Bill, on Twitter: “Commonsense Conservatives lovers of America: Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD! Pls see my Facebook page.” Palin continued the hunting metaphor, posting a map with crosshairs over 20 districts held by Democratic Congressmen.

Conservatism in America now runs in a continuous line from Mike Vanderboegh to Sarah Palin to Republican leaders like John Boehner. All use the words “socialist” and “European” as epithets. The polarisation is accentuated because conservatives rely on Fox News and right-wing blogs for information, while liberals watch MSNBC and read the Washington Post and New York Times. There is no common ground.

Palin is the darling of the Tea Party movement, three-quarters of whom consider themselves Republicans. The Republicans know the tea partiers have the power to make or break them in the November mid-terms, and are bracing themselves for ideological vetting.

Palin will today campaign with Senator John McCain, standing for re-election in Arizona. McCain was given a chance to denounce his former running mate’s “RELOAD” and crosshairs metaphors. “Those words have been used throughout my political career . . . That rhetoric . . . is just part of the political lexicon,” McCain told NBC.

On Fox News, John Boehner acknowledged widespread anger over the healthcare Bill, adding a feeble comment that “violence and threats are unacceptable”. He did not demand that purveyors of anonymous threats and vandalism be tracked down and prosecuted.

Eric Cantor, a Republican Representative from Virginia, showed journalists a bullet that was fired into his office in Virginia, saying he hadn’t intended to talk about it. Democrats were “reckless” in using the incidents “as media vehicles for political gain”, Cantor said. “To use such threats as political weapons is reprehensible. By ratcheting up the rhetoric, some will only inflame these situations to dangerous levels.”