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The Right-wing Descent

August 4th, 2009

When the memo came out among tea-baggers entailing how open, public town-hall meetings led by Democrats could be disrupted, I disregarded it. I wanted to be indignant at what asses these people were, but I concluded that it was some probably just some small-time staffer throwing out an idea that never would come to anything. Maybe I just did not want to believe that things had come to this.

Boy, was I wrong. Here’s a sample, from a town hall given by Senator Arlen Specter and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius:

The memo (scanned here), in short, gives a number of strategies for right-wingers to follow so they can infiltrate and disrupt meetings between Democratic politicians and their constituents, and to do so in such a way that it appears that their own people are against them. The activists are encouraged to find as many participants as they can, coordinate their agenda, distribute talking points so that aggressive questions can be hurled at the politician. Among the tactics: spread out amongst the audience so it looks like there are more of you; yell out and challenge the politician at every opportunity. Don’t wait until the audience is invited to participate–“the goal is to rattle him,” shouting stuff and then sitting down throughout the meeting.

And they’re doing it, in larger and larger numbers. Some of the events that were disrupted, detailed here: Saturday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) was dogged by tea-baggers, while Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) found himself confronted by a mob of right-wingers when he tried to have a scheduled meeting with constituents; Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) stopped giving town halls a month and a half ago because of them; a month ago, Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) stopped holding town halls because right-wingers disrupted any gathering he held; and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) was forced to leave a picnic event when a crowd of right-wingers started shouting the Pledge of Allegiance through bullhorns.

To me, this is even scarier than a lot of the disturbing stuff that right-wingers are doing. This is not just plain old dirty tricks, this goes against the very principles of Democracy. This is shock-troops stuff. Disrupt the Democratic process, don’t let the people hear and participate if you don’t like the message. Don’t just debate the opposition, shut them down. I hate making extreme charges, but I feel that this well warrants it. Because it cannot be easily countered or stopped, and because it deprives the public a chance to interact with their representatives, it is essentially an assault on Democracy itself.

When you match this with the Republican tendency to have members-only town hall meetings, to carefully screen the audience and only allow the faithful in, you begin to see the difference between conservatives and liberals today.

Republicans have started to leave the idea of true Democracy and are quickly devolving into the kind of party that should frighten you if it doesn’t already:

  • Using extreme pejoratives: opponents are no longer “my colleague,” or “my respected opponent,” but are instead now tagged as “unpatriotic,” “un-American,” “socialist,” “communist,” “terrorist”;
  • Appealing to fear, hurling hysterical accusations based on nothing but political opposition: the other side is “destroying America,” they want to “euthanize the elderly,” and so on;
  • Appealing to hate: racial hatred, gender hatred, class hatred–Democrats are racist because they didn’t approve extremist Hispanic nominees, they’re sexist because they opposed an extremist woman nominee, they’re not from “Real America”;
  • Whipping crowds into a frenzy: remember McCain and Palin last year, pouring on the invective so thick that participants in their crowds started shouting death threats against the opposition candidate?
  • Appealing to the opposite of reason: the conservative side is more and more relying on fabrications, misleading insinuations, and outright lies to forward their case; Sarah Palin, for example, can hardly open her mouth without lying, and she was virtually idolized for it;
  • Obstruction and disruption: block everything the opposition does, try to shut them down, don’t let them get a word in edgewise, as we see in the memo outlined above;
  • Control the media: accuse it of having an imaginary left-wing bias so that in defense, it will show more right-wing bias to shunt the criticism, then pour money into creating right-wing media of your own, drowning the airwaves with propaganda;
  • Control perception: make your opponents’ very name a pejorative, and carefully use language to define issues to your liking–see Newt Gingrich’s memo from the 1996 on this.

This is not a list of baseless charges–note the examples for each point, and you can probably think of many more for each case.

I am probably leaving out a few more key elements, but that’s a fair list right there. These are the characteristic strategies of the Republican party and of right-wing politics in general as of the past few decades–and the decline is only accelerating. More and more we are seeing this stuff, and it is only getting stronger and stronger. How far down the road before the violence we see in right-wing culture–the shooting of abortion doctors, the extremist, paranoid gun advocates going on violent sprees–become one more element in the arsenal of right-wing politics? Encourage the people at the fringe to commit acts of violence against the opposition and then sit back and claim you have nothing to do with it? How long before the mobs they send to meetings devolve into violence?

I truly hope I am over-reacting to all this, but I don’t think I am. The right wing of this country is starting to get seriously scary.

  1. Tim Kane
    August 4th, 2009 at 12:49 | #1

    When I first started reading political blogs, around January 2004 I began a short interaction with a young lady who had moved her family from Sacramento California to Vancouver, Canada. I was intrigued and was interested about her motivations, and the whole experience. She first commented on Dailykos, and we passed a few emails as I inquired about all of this.

    First I asked her why she did it. She said that her and her husband had concluded that the events in Florida were nothing short of a coup. As TPM is reporting, that was effected by the Brooks Brothers revolt. She said, that put them on notice. The passage of the patriot act caused them to pull the trigger. They hired an immigration lawyer in Vancouver. The husband went up there to find a job, and then when he got one, she followed. She said that both her and her husband had at least one parent who worked in education in the social sciences, and they also each had at least one grand parent who were chased out of Eastern Europe.

    I went so far as to phone the lawyer she used. He told me to just do the paper work myself. It never got done. It is now too late for me. Short of finding a Canadian to marry, to move to Canada. I often think back to that discussion. Her and her husband had the same information, but everything that’s happened in the last 8 years confirms that they acted in good judgment.

    This kind of thing, thugs showing up at Town Hall meetings, is beyond the pail. I must admit, it is brilliant, if desperate, tactics that could either work or back fire. But what it proves is that wealthy Americans who benefit from a health care system that over charges and under serves all of America, but also will allow 18,000 of our fellow Americans to die for want of a doctor at the right time, will do almost anything to keep pulling down super monopoly rents even though it is responsible for Killing people, killing jobs, and now killing the agencies and institutional arrangments of democracy and destroying the American way of life for everybody.

    This is no different then Hitler’s brown shirts. In fact, in some ways it is worse because some of these people are disrupting meetings are thugs paid to be there by lobbyist hired by corporations to do just this. This is taking things to a whole new level. And it is an indication that these people will go to any and every length to stop health care reform.

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