This morning I was a bit under the weather so I stayed at home and just did a slow morning instead of getting my lazy ass up to the gym. I went back to my old habits of taking advantage of the early morning to try and catch up on what’s going on in the news. This morning, I turned the television to MSNBC and watched the Morning Joe show with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
Considering recent political events, a major portion of this morning’s discussion was the public’s response to the passage of the healthcare reform bill. More specifically, the discussion focused on the threats of violence that are coming from the far right. There have been several stories about Democratic politicians being threatened with violence from their constituents. Several politicians had their campaign offices vandalized. A number have received some seriously vulgar death threats. I heard a recording sent to one politician that had string of profanities so long that I though that the station airing the rant would wear out its bleep button. The brother of another politician had the gas line to the bar-b-cue pit at his home severed and the smell of gas leaking permeated his home. In the mailbox was a letter threatening more violence in the future.
Now Mr. Scarborough says he’s a moderate conservative. He might be moderate, but I think his political leanings are a little further to the far right than he lets on. He said that all these things happening in the news are awful and he doesn’t want to do anything or say anything to downplay the horrendous nature of these acts. But then he follows up that when he did his stint as a member of the United States House of Representatives where he represented the good folks in Florida’s 1st district. Mr. Scarborough replied that if he had called the press every time he had a hostile phone call he’d never get anything done. He wanted to know why the news never talked about the hostile threat against a conservative politician from the liberal. The way Mr. Scarborough approaches the matter you’d think that what we were going through was just another every day occurrence. But of course, he would never think that he was downplaying the serious nature of what’s going on right now.
The political far right’s response to the passage of healthcare reform is not an everyday occurrence. People feeling emboldened enough to yell racial and homophobic epithets at, or spitting on, our national politicians in the halls of the capital building is a new phenomenon. If Mr. Scarborough can recall when he was walking through the capital building and somebody spat on him or a day when he showed up for work at his office and found someone had vandalized the place, or if he could recall the day somebody came to his house and caused a gas leak and endangered his family then I might be a little more sympathetic towards his rather casual dismissal.
And let us not forget the fact that this isn’t an attack on a lone politician who happens to piss a constituent or two off. The phenomenon we are talking about is a suddenly happening to a variety of politicians on one side of the political divide in response to a very public and very intense, contentious debate and subsequent brawl over healthcare reform. And now that one side has lost, the latest setback in a painful string of disappointments that started with the election of America’s first black President, a lot of people are wishing harm to a subset of our national legislators.
What is happening now isn’t just some crank call from an angry voter in the middle of the night. People are having their gas line severed and finding hateful messages in their mailbox promising more. Mr. Scarborough complains bitterly about the bias in the media reporting. He made the suggestion that if it was a case of a liberal constituent threatening and vandalizing a conservative politician, nobody would care. The media would not even bother reporting the story.
Maybe he has a point. Maybe if it was a liberal doing the vandalizing nobody would be paying attention. But the fact of the matter is that it isn’t just a liberal citizen threatening a politician. In fact, it isn’t just a conservative doing bad deeds. The fact of the matter is that there are more than just a few cases of this kind of thing going on. And while tempers might be running hot after the climax of such a long and contentious congressional fight, things will get better before they get a lot worse. Mid-term elections will be held later this year and there are bound to be people spoiling for political and physical fights. And if some of these political conservatives suffer another series of losses things are sure to get a lot worse.
People like Mr. Scarborough and Ms. Brzezinski and the rest of their crew shouldn’t be so quick to try and trivialize what’s going on. Nobody is getting their panties in a wad over one or two threats. Some people won’t take this seriously until somebody gets seriously hurt or worse. If only I had a dollar for every time a politician minimized the dangerous behavior of their supportive political constituents.