Tim Kaine has issued a strong statement calling on Republicans “to tone down their over the top rhetoric and tactics and to condemn the deplorable behavior of their supporters which has included the vandalizing of Congressional offices and threats on Democratic Members of Congress who voted in favor of health insurance reform.” Kaine concludes:
The Republican National Committee has followed up its infamous fundraising presentation with a new fundraising appeal that shows the Speaker of the House aflame online. The RNC’s Chairman has said that the Speaker should be put before a firing squad and vehemently defended Rep. Boehner’s characterization of the passage of health insurance reform as ‘Armageddon.’
It is no coincidence that we now have reports that Democratic Congressional offices have been vandalized, Democratic Members of Congress have received threats and been subject to racial epithets and homophobic slurs, and a gas line was cut at what was thought to be the home of a Democratic Member of Congress after the address was posted online and tea partiers were encouraged to intimidate the Congressman.
These now cannot be brushed off as isolated incidents.
It is no longer enough for Republicans to characterize threats and incidents of vandalism as isolated. It is no longer enough for Republicans to blame these events on outsiders.
Republican leaders must disassociate themselves from this deplorable behavior, they must condemn these acts decisively and, most importantly, they must tone down their own tactics and rhetoric to set a better example for their supporters and the country. I call on them to do so.
The point is, Republicans are stoking this anger, fanning the flames, and implicitly (or even explicitly) encouraging their supporters to resort to violence. Unfortunately, as Timothy Egan writes in this morning’s New York Times, the Republican Party has become “the party of the hissy fit,” the home for “rage-filled partisans with spittle on their lips…tying their fate to a fringe, one that includes a small faction of overt racists and unstable people.” On one level, that’s fine, if Republicans want to write themselves off as a serious political party in America. Make our day! On another level, though, what the Republicans are doing here is completely unacceptable, bordering on illegal (incitement to violence?); “playing with fire,” as Egan writes.
Sadly, this once-great political party has deteriorated from the sensible, serious centrism of Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, and many others (e.g., Bob Dole in his pre-presidential-nominee days, George HW Bush in his “voodoo economics” days). Just as sadly, this once-great political party has declined from the serious intellectual foundations laid down by people like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater to the blow-dried idiocy of Eric Cantor, the “get-off-my-lawn!!!” rage of John Boehner, and the know-nothingism of Sarah Palin. Last but not least, this once-great political party has morphed from the “sunny optimism, and at times bipartisan bonhomie” of Ronald Reagan to the “red-faced, frothing” (as Egan puts it), pessimistic, fear-and-loathing driven “Party of No” we see today.
The consequences of this Republican implosion, which not coincidentally has taken place in the aftermath of our country electing its first African American president, are almost certainly not going to be positive. Here in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli is one manifestation; as E.J. Dionne writes, Cuccinelli and his allies “want to resurrect states’ rights doctrines discredited by President Andrew Jackson during the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s and buried by the Civil War.” Perhaps they even want to fight another Civil War. Who knows? But the bottom line is that, as Anne Applebaum writes in this morning’s Washington Post, if all Republicans are going to do is “scream ‘communist’ and ‘fascist’ at our democratically elected president– thereby achieving nothing at all — then I want nothing to do with them.” Nor should any of us.