Some legislators who voted for healthcare reform have had bricks thrown through the windows of their district offices. A New York congressman got a threatening letter and an envelope filled with a suspicious white powder. Protestors put a coffin in front of the home of another member. Two Indiana congressmen have been getting death threats directed at their families and staffs.
Although these news stories were carried by the national media, there’s nothing entertaining about watching goons hurl venomous slurs at such Congressmen as the civil rights hero John Lewis and the openly gay Barney Frank. As the week dragged on and reports of death threats and vandalism stretched from Arizona to Kansas to upstate New York, the FBI and local police departments had to get into the act to protect members of Congress and their families.
The tsunami of anger gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than Medicare—an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: The healthcare bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. In fact, the current surge of anger—and the accompanying rise in right-wing extremism—predate the entire healthcare debate. The first signs were the shrieks of “Traitor!” and “Off with his head!” at Sarah Palin rallies as Obama’s election became more likely in October 2008. Those passions have since spiraled, from Texas governor Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists at a Texas Tea Party rally, to the gratuitous brandishing of assault weapons at Obama healthcare rallies last summer, to “You lie!” piercing the President’s address to Congress last fall like an ominous shot. And now we have former Vice Presidential candidate Palin putting members of Congress in the crosshairs of her rifle in a Facebook post, and urging people to “Reload!” At least four members have received death threats.
This isn’t about health insurance reform any more (if it ever was). It’s about the breakdown of civil society, which if left unchecked is an invitation to anarchy. The United States is a nation of laws and of respect for law. If we don’t agree with our lawmakers, we vote against them in the next election. We decidedly do not throw bricks through their windows, threaten them or their families, or spit upon their persons!