Monday, September 27, 2010

A Statesman Endangered

Many are worried that the overwrought hatespeech of Tea Party leaders and similar right-wing radicals will lead to an assassination attempt against President Barack Obama.

He is not the only politician for whom I am afraid.

Three quotes from Sharron Angle, the Tea Party advocate nominated by the Republicans to oppose Senator Harry Reid (who also happens to be the Majority Leader and thus the head of the Democratic Party within that legislative body):

1) We're at war in this country - for our freedom, our culture, for our liberty, our Constitution...

2) I need warriors to stand beside me. You know, this is a war of ideology, a war of thoughts and of faith. And we need people to really stand for faith and trust, not hope and change.

And last but certainly not least...

3) I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.

Let us pretend for a moment that a liberal senatorial aspirant - say Hillary Clinton in 2000 or Barack Obama in 2004 - had uttered the left-wing equivalent of such a violent statement. How do you think the general public would have reacted to it? How would the media - to say nothing of the Republicans - have responded to it (especially if a candidate named Obama had said that so shortly after September 11th)?

Of course, the problem with that hypothetical analogy is that liberals, for all of their flaws, aren't prone to advocating violence, implicitly or otherwise, in their rhetoric, which makes it pretty hard to conceive of a progressive equivalent to Angle's line.

I know, I know... because I'm a liberal myself, that last statement was clearly tainted by partisan bias, and I need to recognize that in any conflict both sides are always equally culpable (our era's own most persistent fatuous axiom), and as such rend my garments and utter ten mea culpas for even thinking that maybe radical liberals aren't just as bad as radical conservatives in every way, shape, and form, blah blah blah blah blah.

Guess what? I was an undergraduate at Bard College - the institution voted by the Princeton Review to be the most left-wing university in America (which is quite a distinction) - during the height of the Bush years, and I heard my fellow college students say some pretty outlandish things. When they'd compare Bush to Hitler, I would tell them that such statements were as repugnant as they were moronic (an observation that would earn me condescending looks regarding my obvious naivete). When they'd sneer and jeer at anyone who dared mouth a conservative opinion, I would stand up for the maligned right-winger, arguing not only for his or her right to free speech but also for the desirability of having a diversity of perspectives. When they'd state that Republicans were planning on turning the American body politic into a one-party system, I'd politely inform them that (a) they were incorrect and (b) even if they weren't incorrect, history suggests that the Republicans would fail in that endeavor, since the last time America actually had a one-party system was when James Monroe was president (indeed, if Republicans couldn't turn America into a one-party state during their periods of dominance in the Gilded Age, Roaring Twenties, and Reagan Era, it seemed unlikely to me that they'd be able to do so after two narrow victories - one of them fraudulent - with George W. Bush). Heck, after Bush was reelected in 2004 and a gaggle of Bard radicals decided to stage a minor riot in the small hamlet that housed our university, I wrote a letter condemning their action in the Bard newspaper, which caused me to be vilified by a significant segment of the student community.

Oh, and in case you don't believe me, I have a portfolio of editorials I wrote at the time to prove all of this.

But I digress. The point of what I'm saying is that - despite my abundant criticisms of left-wing radicalism as witnessed by me at a campus objectively considered to be one of the nation's foremost hotbeds of extreme liberal activity - at no point did I ever hear anyone, even in the heat of anger, even as a wishful thought or joke, suggest that violence ought to befall a conservative political figure.

Not once.

And that was at a school whose student body was much farther to the left than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama... or, for that matter, Howard Dean and John Edwards (when I played the latter in a mock presidential debate in February '04, I was accused of being conservative).

Now, just to bring us back to the topic at hand, quickly scroll up again and re-read the three Sharron Angle quotes. Don't worry, I italicized them so they'd be easier to find. When you're done, return to the next paragraph, which I've made easier to retrieve with a line of exclamation points to symbolize my fearful incredulity that an individual such as Angle is actually within spitting distance of a position of power.


Considering that the quotes you just read are pretty par for the course in Sharron Angle's rhetorical arsenal, it is not unfair to assume that the message she's trying to send to her legion of devoted supporters is this:

I don't WANT us to have to kill him, but since he and the rest of the Democratic Party are trying to destroy everything that is good, virtuous, godly and right with the world, then if we can't beat Harry Reid in a fair election... well, ya know...

As far as I'm concerned, Sharron Angle's rhetoric is as incendiary as a match in a pool of kerosene. After being preached this kind of contemptible vitriol, how might an Angle acolyte react if he or she discovers that not only has Reid won, but that the Democrats (and thus Reid) have retained control of the Senate?

A preview can be found in an incident that occurred last week at a Sharron Angle rally. A group of pro-Reid protesters decided to stage a walkout while Angle was delivering a speech and - well, one Angle supporter didn't take too kindly to that. So naturally he pushed one woman over a row of chairs and punched another in the face.

Not true, you think? A product of liberal media bias, you say? Here's a picture.

When informed of this, Angle responded that the women must have been "looking for a fight."

You can't make this stuff up.

I am reminded of an incident in 1851, when Senator Preston Brooks (SC) crept behind Senator Charles Sumner (MA) and beat him to within an inch of his life with a cane. Thankfully, Sumner survived and went on to an illustrious political career. Brooks himself, however, was not punished, and even found that hundreds of his constituents gave him brand new canes to show their appreciation for his "heroism."

Sharron Angle is no better than Preston Brooks and her supporters (or anyone who even considers speaking a word in her or their defense) are no better than the people who mailed him those canes.

This may give you some idea as to why I can write, with absolute sobriety, the following sentence:

I'm frightened for America if Harry Reid loses and frightened for Harry Reid if he wins.

Does that mean that the worst possible results of either situation are definitely going to happen - i.e., that Angle will become a latter-day Joe McCarthy if placed in the Senate or that a rabid Angle supporter will assassinate Reid if he is victorious?

Thankfully, no. But what does it say about the state of the modern right-wing that I have a legitimate cause for concern?

For more on the violence of the Tea Party movement apart from the Reid-Angle election (which I have only used as an example to demonstrate a larger point), see this superb editorial by conservative (yes conservative) pundit David Frum:

Or feel free to check out this article:

Or this one:

Or this one:


Sean said...

I am truly afraid of the Tea Party and everything they represent, they're a party of bigots and hate-mongers who are trying to respond to an illusory threat with religious zealotry.

Matthew Laszlo said...

I couldn't have put it better myself.

The sad irony of all this is that I'm not too impressed with Reid's performance as Senate Majority Leader. That said, I consider the race between him and Sharron Angle to be by far the most important of the 2010 midterm elections. Even Christine O'Donnell, for all her radical beliefs, has never sunk to Angle's depths when it comes to violence.