I guess it is too much to expect Tea Partiers to just go home and be pissed off but lawful citizens. No one expected any of them (or for that matter, most Republicans) to be happy with the health care reform legislation signed into law yesterday. It’s okay for them to vent their spleens, call the law unconstitutional (which it is not), organize peaceful but boisterous protests, petition the government to repeal the law and work actively to regain a majority in Congress. It is not okay to harass members of Congress, spit on them, call African American members of Congress niggers or homosexual members faggots. It is not okay to throw bricks through the windows of their Congressional offices, send them intimidating faxes showing their heads in a noose, or make threats to kill them, or their family, or in one case, a congressman’s brother and his family. In fact, most of these actions are illegal.
Doubtless, we will hear that those crossing the line are a tiny few, but the video evidence of protests by Tea Partiers at the Capitol over the weekend suggests otherwise. Moreover, certain members of Congress were cheering the Tea Partiers on, both outside of the Capitol over the weekend and in one case from the floor of the House of Representatives while it was in session. The instigators, i.e. the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannities and Bill O’Reillies of the media, not to mention dozens of other rabid conservatives inhabiting talk radio, will of course disclaim any responsibility for their part in this mess. So will Fox News, although they covered Tea Party rallies last summer like it was the most important story in the news. (Curiously, these rallies were far smaller than antiwar rallies years earlier that they ignored, dismissed or underreported.)
This is the ugly fruit of their extreme vitriol and hatred when they lose. They now control a party of people so extreme that the bipartisanship they claim to care about is virtually impossible. Almost exclusively, angry white people are now directing the Republican Party. They have cast their lot with these angry extremists in the attempt to regain political power. The reality is their party is now a party full of loose cannons beyond their control.
Tea Partiers may think that me, a liberal Democrat, cannot understand them because I don’t share their values. I do, however, know what it feels like. We had it for eight years under George W. Bush. We held rallies against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that regularly drew ten times as many people as participated in Tea Party rallies. We too vented our spleens in protest marches. Every nasty thing that Tea Partiers are saying about President Obama we (or at least some of us) echoed about President Bush. We called him a war criminal that should be brought up on charges of authorizing torture. We railed against his illegal wiretaps and electronic surveillance policies. One thing we did not do was throw bricks into the offices of Congressional Republicans, or spit on any member of the Bush Administration, or insult them to their face with ethnic slurs. We did not target their relatives with death threats. We played inside the rules of the democratic system in our country.
Anger is perhaps expected when your side loses. It turns out that this legislation was not Obama’s Waterloo after all. Tea Partiers though need to be very careful, because through their actions they are quickly distancing themselves from mainstream America, who see their violence as crazy, extremist, unlawful and undemocratic. Instead of coming across as passionate people of conviction, they are coming across as the crazy aunt kept hidden in the attic. By their actions, they are telling America that when they think a law was passed using unconstitutional means, even if it was not, and they are willing to go to unlawful means to undo it. Essentially, they have placed a little asterisk next to the rule of law. At least some of them feel they can circumvent the rule of law and use vigilante justice when their dander is raised high enough.
I know it may feel to these people that this law was rammed down throats. Lord knows they told us often enough. Yet, nothing about how this law was enacted was unlawful or unconstitutional. Budget reconciliation has been used repeatedly by both parties, and during the Bush Administration was used to pass tax cuts for the wealthy. These tax cuts quickly ballooned our deficit, which previously had produced a surplus. Now Tea Baggers are complaining we can’t afford the health care overhaul, but not one of them is willing to raise taxes to address the revenue shortfall. Apparently, deficits only matter when your party is out of power and you see it as a way to gain political advantage, and can never be solved through additional taxes.
Really, Tea Baggers, grow up. What a terrible example you are setting for your children! There are few things more embarrassing than watching adults behave like children, but I suspect your children are actually better behaved than you are. In case you missed the presidential campaign, Obama won the presidency promising change, including health care reform. A majority of Americans (53 percent) voted for him. Americans also lawfully elected a supermajority of Democratic senators and a majority of members of the House of Representatives, in part in reaction to the extreme ways your party managed the country. The same parliamentary rules were used in this Congress to pass legislation as were used in the last few Congresses.
You may not like the health care reform legislation, but it’s the law of the land. It is highly unlikely to ever be repealed. At the earliest, it won’t happen before 2013 because it will take a new president to not veto a repeal of the law. Moreover, even if you somehow managed to replace every Democratic senator running for reelection in 2010, you would still not have the votes to overturn a presidential veto. The law will never be repealed outright. A clear majority of Americans now support the law. In particular, any attempt to remove provisions of the law that ban discrimination for preexisting conditions would ensure a legislator’s defeat. Attempts by attorneys generals from the various states to try to convince courts it is unconstitutional are dubious at best, for this law is no more an infringement of states rights than the draft is. You would be much better served by simply accepting you lost a big one, and channel your anger on the next battle.
Frankly, I find Tea Partiers not just weird, but dangerously weird in a Timothy McVeigh sort of way. I hope I am wrong, but my sense is that they are not going to peacefully accept what is now the law of the land. I think we are likely to see more extreme acts of violence from Tea Partiers in the days and weeks ahead. There are too many loose cannons on their ship and there is not one grown up in charge that can muzzle them. Should they be unwise enough to resort to more violence, they will also kill whatever chance they have of regaining political power. Americans instinctively back away from fanatics of any political stripe. Doing so will quickly prove counterproductive. The average American is greatly alarmed by their behavior.