The Tea Party Movement has a hard time with putting two and two together. It seems that they can’t understand how right-wing violent verbiage plays into violence. Don’t get me wrong. I’m as big a defender of freedom of speech as they come, but I also believe there’s a responsibility that’s associated with it. Here it is: If you’re running for public office or acting as spokesperson for someone running for public office, you don’t use verbiage that talks about “eliminating” or “killing” your opponent. You don’t say it even if you don’t really mean it. You don’t use it as a metaphor. To say that there are crazy extremists following the Tea Party would be an understatement. Some of these people take that kind of talk to heart.
That’s what happened in Arizona when Jared Lee Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords and other innocent people on January 8, 2011. I know what the Tea Partiers will say. They’ll say we cannot make that connection, but that’s not true. We can. In 2010, a classified ad run by the Tea Party read:
“Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.”
Is the imagery here done intentionally? Hard to say, but my bias is to believe it is. However, even if it was done because someone is totally clueless about its subliminal impact, the message that extremists and mentally compromised people take away is ‘elimination and remove Gabrielle Giffords and guns.’ This kind of verbiage isn’t clever. It isn’t cute. We’ve moved away from civil discourse and into the elimination syndrome. It’s most often done when an opponent cannot match wits on the issues.
As far back as 2010, Tea Party candidates were using this kind of verbiage during campaigns. Sharon Angle, who ran against Harry Reid (D-NV), gave an interview where she suggested the use of “Second Amendment remedies” to deal with an ever increasingly “tyrannical” U.S. Government and to replace her opponent. A bit further into the interview, Angle even dropped a hint that she was packing. When asked point-blank if she was carrying a concealed weapon, her response was:
“Well,” Angle replied, “you know, as part of your test, they always say, ‘Don’t ever tell anybody if you’re carrying because the bad guys don’t need to know if you’re carrying.’ That’s what makes that [sic] concealed carries effective.”
Teabaggers have also been known to rile up their followers by comparing liberals to terrorists and accusing them of genocide. In one 2011 rally in Thiensville, Wisconsin, during the Wisconsin recall fiasco Tea Party Nation CEO Judson Phillips said:
“I will tell you ladies and gentlemen, I detest and despise everything the left stands for. How anybody can endorse and embrace an ideology that has killed a billion people in the last century is beyond me.”
For Tea Party members, a ‘liberal’ is anybody that doesn’t embrace their ultra-conservative philosophy. ‘Moderates’ are not even recognized.
Increased Security for Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), presently involved in a reelection battle with GOP rival and Tea Party choice Sarah Steelman, is the latest recipient of Tea Party love. At a May 3 rally in Springfield Scott Boston, a Tea Party activist, told the crowd, “We have to kill the Claire Bear ladies and gentlemen. She walks around like she’s some sort of Rainbow Brite Care Bear or something but she’s an evil monster.” Again, we have the call to ‘kill’ Claire McCaskill and the comparison to an ‘evil monster.’ In the video below, Steelman’s son is seen applauding Boston’s violent rhetoric.
Not surprisingly, the lowlife Tea Party talk has been perceived as a threat and Senator McCaskill is receiving extra protection from the U.S. Capitol police. Police in Kirkwood, Missouri, where the senator lives, has confirmed that they are increasing patrols around her house. Senator McCaskill is also receiving extra security at her public appearances. Her office has declined to comment on the threat or the resulting increase in security.
There is absolutely no question that the Tea Party Movement is poisoning the political process in America. While there is nothing wrong with having your say, there’s a fine line between exercising your First Amendment rights and leveling threats. During the health care reform vote in 2010, at least 10 Democrats and one Republican reported “acts of violence.” Rep. Harry Mitchell of Arizona received threats on his life, while Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina received a fax with an image of a noose. In Niagara Falls, New York, a brick was thrown through the window of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. There is no room for these rancid attacks in our political process.
With November fast approaching and both the House and Senate up for grabs, you can bet there will be plenty of opportunity for rallies and rhetoric in hotly contested races across the nation.