This appalling story of a woman MoveOn activist in KY being grabbed, pushed down to the cement, and having her head kicked by a Rand Paul supporter, as terrible as it is, only becomes the latest in a long line of political violence in the past few years. From relatively isolated incidents to ones even more violent and troubling, there's a growing pattern here, and as someone who reveres American democracy, I find it quite frightening. Here's just a few examples from the current era:
- Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller hires a group tied to a paramilitary militia to do security for him, and his paratroopers assault and handcuff a citizen journalist just trying to get a question answered.
These are just the actual acts of violence. In the meantime, we have people coming to town hall meetings and Presidential rallies with assault weapons, Republican Senate candidates talking openly of having to use "Second Amendment means" in case regular politics doesn't work, Republican Governors (both Rick Perry and Sarah Palin) meeting with secessionist groups with ties to racist leaders. Rand Paul's wimpy statement about civility is only the latest in Republicans' utter unwillingness to clearly condemn violent acts or rhetoric on the part of way too many of their supporters.
The sad thing is that all this violent talk and action, along with the cowardly acceptance of it by the political party benefiting, is a terrible reliving of American history too many times over. When lynchings and church bombings and the brutal murders and beatings of civil rights activists were going on in the South during the civil rights movement era, politicians in the South rarely said a word to condemn or even restrain their citizens. When an abolitionist Senator, Charles Sumner, was caned by a Senator Preston Brooks from South Carolina, he was cheered and congratulated throughout the South. When the staff at abortion clinics have been murdered several times over the years, "pro-life" politicians have fallen strangely silent way too often.
If Republican politicians don't strongly condemn the thuggery of way too many of their followers, they share in the blame. When they ratchet up their own rhetoric, and talk about second amendment solutions and the President being friends with terrorists, they share in the blame. Democracy is premised on us being able to freely and vigorously debate the issues, and on those who win elections governing the way they believe, but our entire democracy is at risk if violence becomes just another standard operating procedure and isn't swiftly and strongly condemned. Republicans who welcome paramilitary militia members and people with ties to violent racist organizations do so at not only their own peril, but our entire way of government.