By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Democratic members of Congress are complaining that they're receiving threatening E-mails and voicemails and even acts of vandalism, as a result of their vote on the healthcare bill. So House Republican leader John Boehner went on Fox yesterday and said:
"Well, there are a lot of angry Americans and they are angry over this healthcare bill. They're angry about the fact that the Democrats here in Washington aren't listening to them. But I've got to tell you that violence and threats are unacceptable. It is not the American way. Yes, I know there is anger, but let's take that anger, and go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, and let's do it the right way. I'm concerned about the amount of violence and anger that's out there … it's unacceptable."
It's very understandable that people are angry, and they're not crazy to be upset at the level of government spending we've seen under the Democrat Congress and the Obama administration. Ugliness is nothing new in politics, but it does seem like the anger has been getting worse, really since the 2000 recount. And it's not just politics--the faceless anonymity of E-mails and voicemails has shielded all kinds of bad behavior in business, sports, even PTAs as people write things they'd never say in a million years to someone's face.
David Frum writes about how worried he is about the overheated rhetoric, especially coming from conservative talk show hosts. "The vitriolic talking heads on conservative talk radio and shock TV have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination."
Frum's got a point. It's great if John Boehner speaks up, but I'm not so sure the Tea Partiers necessarily listen to elected party leaders like him. They're very independent of either party. The people we really need to hear from are the ones the activists are listening to--the talking heads on cable TV, right wing bloggers, radio show hosts, and speakers at Tea Party conventions.
Sarah Palin, for one. She's got several Tea Party speeches coming up. Earlier this week, she posted on her Facebook page a list of lawmakers who voted for the healthcare bill--like Boehner, she's urging supporters to organize this fall in key re-election campaigns. It's great that she's encouraging people to get involved in elections, but then she marks the target districts on an accompanying map with cross hairs from a gun. As someone who was very recently an elected official herself, you'd think she'd be sensitive to the reasons not to use cross hairs as icons for elected officials. Rather than sending a subtle message to those audiences with a graphic like that, she might want to use her media platform to rise above the craziness, and to convince other grass-roots leaders to do the same. The rest of us can talk about taking things down a notch, but the most influential voices will be the ones coming from inside the movement.