Angle, Barber, and the Republican Rhetoric of Violence

On one level this talk is funny. But on another level, it's not funny at all.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Is the GOP becoming the party of revolution? And I don't mean "revolution" in the sense of the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, but in the literal rise up with arms sense. A couple of data points have surfaced that raise genuinely disturbing questions about a pair of the candidates running for office under the GOP banner this year. And I'm not talking about marginal candidates, but people who actually have a real chance of getting elected to Congress.

One is Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. As "The Plum Line's" excellent Greg Sargent reports, in January (when she was still dwelling in the polling margin of error, before her meteoric rise to the top of the GOP field), Angle raised the specter of armed violence--"Second Amendment remedies" as she blithely put it--if "this Congress keeps going the way it is."

Here's what Angle told conservative talk show host Lars Larson:

You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

I hope that's not where we're going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I'll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

Sargent asked Larson if he thought she was indeed talking about an armed uprising. Larson's take: "If it continues to do the things it's doing, I think she's leaving open that possibility."

My colleague Alex Kingsbury asked Tea Party godfather Dick Armey about the "Second Amendment remedies" comment today at a luncheon with reporters. "It is a problem," Armey said. "It is always a problem." He wrote the comment off as a "Dang! I wish I hadn't said that!" -type gaffe.

But until Angle--who is only talking to conservative media--publicly retracts her remark, all national Republican leaders and Angle supporters ( The Hill reports that several moderate GOP senators, like Scott Brown, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins, are, ahem, keeping their powder dry regarding to what extent they'll support Angle) should be asked whether they agree that armed insurrection is a serious policy option.

And they should also be asked about the latest ad from Rick Barber, another Tea Partyer (surprise!) who is in a runoff to face Alabama Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright. The ad features Barber conferring with--well, ranting at--George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Ben Franklin. He opens with talk of impeaching Obama and goes on about the IRS and the progressive tax code. Noting that the ghostly trio revolted over a tea tax, he says things have gotten much worse and that he won't "stand by while these evils are perpetrated." (At one point the former Marine points to a piece of parchment that he says he swore to defend with his life; presumably he's referring to the Constitution, but close examination reveals the document he's pointing to is the Declaration of Independence--oh well, close enough I suppose.)

The ad closes with his asking if the three forefathers are "with me?!?" The Washington characters responds: "Gather. Your. Armies."

Gather your armies? On one level people like Angle and Barber are clownishly funny caricatures. But on another level, talk of armed violence against the government is not funny at all. It's scary. And that such allusions enter the main stream of political dialogue is disturbing.

Here's the Barber ad: