Some politicians are reconsidering their commitment to public service as a result of threats they’ve received. These threats are made by Americans who say they are against big government. The latest casualty was nine-term Congressman Bart Stupak who confirmed that he received threats of physical violence after the recent debate over health care reform, but denied rumors that he decided not to seek re-election because of those threats.
Reports of threats and criminal conduct directed at politicians are rampant these days. It was reported that the FBI is investigating a report that a brick was thrown through a window at House Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter’s (D-N.Y) Niagara Falls office and at the Democratic headquarters in Rochester. It was “a dreadful thing” said Slaughter.
According to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, more than 10 lawmakers have complained they’ve received threats since the vote on health insurance overhaul.
“The incidents of threats whether in person or through telephones or through other communication devices, have given great concern to members, for the safety of themselves and their families,” Hoyer told reporters.
“Clearly our democracy is about participation. Our democracy is about differing and debate – animated debate and passionate debate – but it is not about violence,” he added. “It is about making sure that everybody in America feels free to express their opinion . . . without subjecting themselves their family or others to . . . criminal behavior, in some respects, that undermines our democracy,” said Hoyer.
Then there is Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello’s who confirmed that a line to a propane tank on a gas grill was cut at his brother’s Charlottesville home. Tea Party activists had posted the address online thinking it was the congressman’s home, telling opponents to drop by and “express their thanks” for his vote.
Perriello said in a written statement that it’s “too early to say anything definitive regarding political motivations behind this act,” but that political leaders should nevertheless condemn threats of violence, “particularly as threats to other members of Congress and their children escalate.”
“Here in America, we settle our political differences at the ballot box,” Perriello said.
However, there are obviously some Americans who do no subscribe to this and who will use violence and threats of violence against our public servants simply because they are doing the jobs they were elected to do – advance the agenda of their constituents.
Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, blamed Republicans for the threats, calling on them to condemn the actions and speak directly to their supporters.
“They must ask their supporters to ratchet down their extreme rhetoric and cease this threatening behavior,” he said in a written statement. “People have a right to assemble and speak their minds. But, inciting or inflaming violence against elected officials and their families is over the line and inappropriate.”
Republican and Tea Party supporter, Sarah Palin, has been overtly courting Tea Partiers with rhetoric which some say is intended to incite violence.
A few weeks ago, Palin released a list of 20 U.S. House seats she said conservatives should target in the upcoming midterm elections. The list, posted on her Facebook page, featured a U.S. map with circles and cross hairs over the 20 districts.
Critics said it was inappropriate to use gun imagery, especially as a handful of Democrats who supported the health care overhaul reported receiving threats of violence.
McCain defended Palin, saying it was common practice and “part of the lexicon” to refer to targeted congressional districts.
At a March, 2010 rally, Palin offered this coy and equivocal attempt at a disclaimer which appears to be deliberately watered-down so as not to offend her Tea Party buddies: “this BS coming from the lame-stream media” about “us common-sense conservatives ‘kinda’ inciting violence . . . we know violence isn’t the answer. When we take up our arms, we’re talking about our vote.”
Palin declared that the Tea Party movement is “a beautiful grassroots movement that is putting government back on the side of the people. … Everybody here today supporting John McCain, we’re all part of that tea party movement.”
The Tea Party movement is “beautiful”? Is this the same Tea Party which sent angry, gun-toting Tea Partiers to flood town hall meetings which were organized for rational and civil debate on health care reform? After one such meeting in Atlanta, a swastika was painted on the office of Congressman David Scott (D-GA), who also received a flier addressed to “nigga David Scott.” One protesters was armed at an event where the President was speaking.
Some Tea Partiers have defended the fledgling movement by saying that those responsible for these actions are part of the lunatic fringe – a very small segment of the Tea Party movement which does not represent the ideology of the majority. However, because the Tea Party has failed to take decisive action to eradicate this fringe group from its ranks, it appears as though it is knowingly harboring them.
The Tea Party must take a firm stand to condemn and disavow violence, threats of violence, and criminal acts against our public servants (the folks who could quit public service in order to accept $10,000 speaking gigs – but don’t).
If the Tea Party fails to do this, then Palin must distance herself from the Tea Party movement because of its willingness to insert bigotry, fear and terror into American politics. The Tea Party is on a collision course with its own dissolution. The first report of physical injury or harm to one single politician by a Tea Partier will lead to the dismantling and demise of the political future of this leaderless group and its supporters, such as Palin. As a mother and grandmother (maybe of future politicians), Palin must send the message that those in public service (and their families) must not be threatened, abused, or harmed in any way simply because they are doing their jobs. They are off-limits.
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Related post by Keiron Jackman:
The Tea Party Exploit