So says House Majority Whip James Clyburn about the rancor, anger and general unhinged-ness coming from the GOP and Tea Party protestors. And he’s right. So is Bob Herbert, in this must-read column.* Herbert details the Tea Partiers taunting a man with Parkinson’s, spitting on black congressmen, and shouting racial and homophobic epithets. Despite Republicans’ claims that it’s the Democrats who are divisive (kind of a laughable contention given the GOP’s behavior during the health care battles), the GOP not only stonewalls reasonable legislation put forth by Democrats, but stokes fear and hatred in its far-right supports — hatred that doesn’t just create political animosity, but capitalizes on genuine bigotry, racism, homophobia and misogyny. Herbert says:
For decades the G.O.P. has been the party of fear, ignorance and divisiveness. All you have to do is look around to see what it has done to the country. The greatest economic inequality since the Gilded Age was followed by a near-total collapse of the overall economy. As a country, we have a monumental mess on our hands and still the Republicans have nothing to offer in the way of a remedy except more tax cuts for the rich.
The toxic clouds that are the inevitable result of the fear and the bitter conflicts so relentlessly stoked by the Republican Party — think blacks against whites, gays versus straights, and a whole range of folks against immigrants — tend to obscure the tremendous damage that the party’s policies have inflicted on the country. If people are arguing over immigrants or abortion or whether gays should be allowed to marry, they’re not calling the G.O.P. to account for (to take just one example) the horribly destructive policy of cutting taxes while the nation was fighting two wars.
A party that promotes ignorance (“Just say no to global warming”) and provides a safe house for bigotry cannot serve the best interests of our country. Back in the 1960s, John Lewis risked his life and endured savage beatings to secure fundamental rights for black Americans while right-wing Republicans like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan were lining up with segregationist Democrats to oppose landmark civil rights legislation.
Since then, the right-wingers have taken over the G.O.P. and Mr. Lewis, now a congressman, must still endure the garbage they have wrought.
The GOP certainly isn’t responsible for the actions of every single individual who votes for a Republican, or every hate-radio commentator. But they are certainly responsible for sowing the seeds of hatred and resentment, and for picking traditionally marginalized groups as their scapegoats — immigrants, people of color, women, gays and lesbians. They are certainly also guilty of using violent, heated rhetoric to get their point across, whether they’re calling health care legislation “Marxist” and invoking Lenin or suggesting that we put the Speaker of the House in the “firing line” or screaming out “baby-killer” in the middle of a Congressional debate. They embrace and even pander to the most far-right elements of their constituency, and they set a tone which enables and even promotes the kind of disgusting, inhuman behavior that the Tea Partiers exhibit.
And we aren’t just talking about right-wingers calling openly gay congressman Barney Frank a faggot or civil rights leader turned congressman John Lewis a nigger (although they did do that). We’re talking about crowds who yell at a black congressman, “Kill the bill, then the n-word.” We aren’t just talking about people who vandalize congressional offices (although they did do that). We’re talking about people who threaten to assassinate (their word) the children of congresswomen who voted “yes” on the bill. We aren’t just talking about people who leave anti-Semitic notes with swastikas on them at the offices of Jewish congressmen (although they did do that). We’re talking about organizers who will publicize the names and addresses of the family members of congressmen and encourage followers to “drop by” — followers who may then cut the gas line to the family’s home.
We’re talking about a major political party that does nothing to deter that kind of behavior, and instead quietly encourages it.
Part of the problem is media coverage. The kind of ugliness that the GOP and the Teabaggers exhibit isn’t as well-covered as it should be in the mainstream media, I suspect in part because of fears of being branded excessively liberal and unfair. Part of the traditional American media conceit is a veneer of impartiality — you get a quote from one “side” and a quote from the other “side,” and you’re fair and balanced. The problem, though, is that kind of reporting can lend credence to totally unfounded and out-there viewpoints — the people who think global warming doesn’t exist are about as credible as people who think the sun revolves around the earth, but they’re given equal time and say in mainstream media outlets, giving their totally marginal and flat-out factually incorrect viewpoints much more weight than they deserve. The same thing happened with abortion in the health care bill — Republicans and conservative Democrats spouted nonsense about how it was going to be an abortion free-for-all, and the media reported that view with the same weight as everyone else saying “No it’s not.” At no point did most media outlets simply say, “We’ve looked into this and these guys are either wrong or lying or both.” It’s enabled the Republican party to premise entire political arguments and platforms on lies, from Iraq to abortion to marriage equality to economic policy.
They’re doing it again with health care reform, from Marxism to death panels. They’re flat-out lying without consequence, and then whipping up their more whip-able constituents into a frothing rage, and then using violent and bigoted rhetoric, and then acting just shocked (if they respond at all) when the more angry, bigoted and violent of their followers act angrily, bigotedly and violently. It’s kind of like they’ve borrowed the anti-abortion movement’s playbook (not surprising, of course, since the GOP is fundamental to the anti-abortion movement).
I’m glad to see Bob Herbert actually holding the Republican party accountable for its actions, and for its embrace of radical bigots and violent lowlifes. It would be nice, though, if such denunciations weren’t relegated to the op/ed pages, and if the rest of the traditional media would similarly indict the GOP, the teabaggers and the radical right for the hatred and violence they sow.
*Heads up to Feministe readers who object to the use of terms like “insane” and “crazy”: Herbert uses both in the column.
Similar Posts (automatically generated):
- #DearJohn: The GOP Seeks to Re-Define Rape and Restrict Reproductive Health Care by Jill January 31, 2011
- Congressman booted from Democrats for Life because he wants to reduce the abortion rate by Jill July 14, 2009
- Reagan wasn’t a racist, he just supported racist policies by Jill November 20, 2007
- Violence-Abetting Anti-Choice Fanatics: Now in Congress by Jill June 19, 2009
- Pro-Choice Congressmen More Likely to Have Slutty Daughters by Jill June 18, 2007