When angry mobs disrupted healthcare reform town halls last summer, the first warning shots were fired. Back then Republican Party leadership appeared amused by the ruckus being created, believing they would ride the crest of this discontent to victory. They may not have shared the "birther" angst or "death panel" rage, but they played with these notions, and with a wink and a nod sought to use them to their advantage.
At that time I warned that the economic insecurity on which the GOP leadership was preying, and the anger with which they were toying, could ultimately turn on them and devour them first. And now after a half dozen or so highly charged Republican primary contests, it appears that this is exactly what has happened.
With Palin and the Tea Party acting as the chief cheerleaders and Newt, Beck and Rush -- the boys charged with pouring gasoline on the bonfire -- the GOP no longer looks like the Party of Lincoln. In fact, it doesn't even look like the party of Reagan anymore. No tears should be shed for the grey men in expensive suits who fed the fire and stoked the flames. They got burned and that's what happens. While some debate whether this is good for Democrats in November, my concern is less with what will happen in the election and more importantly what the success of this movement of malcontents will mean for civil discourse and our democracy.