If this were the only instance of this kind of thing, it would still be disturbing. Sadly it is not. We have seen the "arrest" of an Alaska journalist by the security detail for Tea Party backed Republican Senatorial Candidate Joe Miller. We have seen Carl Paladino screaming in the face of a reporter and saying that he would "take him out". We have seen Sharon Angle muse about "2nd Amendment remedies" is Republicans are not elected. We have seen Stephen Broden, a Tea Party candidate for House in Dallas say and defend the idea that armed revolution should be on the table.
This is combined with the massive amount of attack ads against Democrats this cycle fueled by secret money. These ads flatly lie about the positions and consequences of Democrats votes, but they continue to fuel the idea that there something sinister going on in our government.
This dovetails nicely into the efforts for the Republicans and Birthers to undermine the legitimacy of President Obama. The constant insistence that he was not born in the United States. The insinuation that he is a Muslim and some kind of Manchurian Candidate goes on daily.
Add to all of this the Islamophobia which makes anti-mosque building groups comfortable with arguing in court that Islam is not really a religion or that it is okay to be openly bigoted and say the best reason to get rid of Democratic Representative Keith Ellison is that he is a Muslim and we have all the components for real and sustained political violence in the United States.
When paramilitaries and vigilantes pop up, democracies are in real trouble. These groups are often motivated by conservative patriotism, which sees other groups in society as destroying the traditional values and power structure. When they are tacitly or overtly supported by politicians, the Pandora's box of political violence is opened.
Ask yourself for a second why is it, exactly, that Joe Miller needs a posse of aggressive security from the firm Drop Zone? Has he received serious threats? If so, why is he not being protected by the police? Does he need ex and active duty military to protect him from reporters?
The meme of "taking their country back" has always been a dangerous one. It implies that votes of millions of Americans in 2006 and 2008 were not real. Worse the illegitimacy it implies strips the government and the elected officials of the traditional deference these offices hold. If the government is illegal or illegitimate, then actions that were unthinkable before become not only thinkable but acceptable. The idea of violently reacting to a loss at the ballot box gains credibility.
If our candidates for high office are staring to travel with their own groups of hair-triggered hired thugs, the message that sends is that not only is violence expected, but it will be countered aggressively. This makes it that much easier for the most spun up and least stable of a candidates supporters to act. Like the Rand Paul supporters in Kentucky.
There will always be more people who talk about violence than commit it. Whether it is religious or ethnic violence, the perpetrators almost always feel like they will gain the praise of the large group who just talks about violence if they act. There is a threshold of acceptance of action that when reached allows those with violent tendencies off the leash as it were to act out.
The Paul supporters may very well have felt they were defending their candidate. They may have thought that something nefarious was going on, but that they acted by violently taking the woman to the ground and then kicking her while she was held helpless is a sign of how far the Right in this nation has gotten from reality. The woman did not have a weapon. She was in a public place trying to make a political statement to a candidate for public office. Yet her approaching the candidate was enough to inspire a frightening display of group violence.
Where do we go from here with these proto-paramiltary and vigilante actions? I wish I could say that I thought things will cool down after the election, but my fear is that they will not. Even if the Republicans were trounced at the ballot box (which is not going to happen) the Talk Radio and Fox News crowds will continue to push the "us versus them" and fear mongering memes.
Given that there will be some gains by Republicans, it might subside somewhat, but this kind of fear and anger is hard to put back in box once it is given its head. There is an addictive quality to outrage and anger requires higher and higher levels to satisfy. When you have internalized that Liberals and Democrats are the same as Nazi's and Stalin then it is hard to say "well they are just doing their job as their constituents want".
We fought a war that took millions of lives against the Nazis. They are evil incarnate in our culture, to have one side convinced that a large portion of the nation is the same as the Nazi's is dangerous in the extreme.
Violence in politics should never be acceptable. The last eight years of eliminationist rhetoric and the stoking of white resentment by the Republicans have taken us to the brink of it being not only acceptable but in some quarters necessary. If we do not speak out constantly and loudly that to call for violence is politics is unacceptable, we may very well face on the most dangerous threats to any democracy.
The floor is yours.