Before dashing off to celebrate a hard fought victory in achieving health care reform, it is important to reflect on a deeply disturbing aspect of the debate that I believe spells danger ahead.
A Republican talking point repeated ad nauseam during yesterday's debate pounded on the theme that they, and they alone, had the right to speak for "the will of the American people." This took different forms: "the American people have spoken," or "you (Democrats) are ignoring/imposing your views on the American people" or "the American people have sent a message," etc. All making the same point -- that the GOP speaks for the American people.
Of course, the American people have spoken, and in November 2008 elected a Democratic White House and Senate and House of Representatives. But, elections and the workings of our democracy including the idea that the losing party respect the outcome of elections appear to be alien concepts to today's GOP.
The idea that the minority party represents the "will of the people" (not some of the people, but "the people") is the seedling of a totalitarian mindset. In this mindset -- democracy doesn't matter, ideas are not to be discussed, and opposing views are not to respected. What matters is that they alone have truth, they alone are metaphysically connected to the "mind of the people" can interpret their will, and because they have truth and speak for the people, others represent a threat and must be silenced and stopped.
This was a major concern last summer as violent demonstrators disrupted "town meetings" -- with angry chanting mobs claiming to represent the "will of the people" arrayed against the elected Congresspeople and their constituents who had freely assembled to discuss issues. The mobs didn't come to discuss or even debate. They were mobilized to disrupt discussion and silence debate.
Listening to the rhetorical excesses of last summer's demonstrators, or those who mobilized to chant slurs at Democrats over the weekend, or to the radio and TV personalities who incite with hate and fear ("that we are losing our country"), or the GOP Congressional leadership who charge much the same and incite in similar ways -- I hear echoes of last century's history. The behavior fits a frightening pattern and ought to be of concern.