What's Behind The Wave of Right-Wing Health Care Violence?

Small-scale attacks plague Congressmen over health care reform

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As conservative anger over the passage of health care reform seeps into the furthest reaches of the right wing, pundits are struggling to comprehend the wave of small-scale violence against Democratic members of Congress. Thankfully, none of the violence has been anything approaching fatal. Rather, it is restricted to vicious but unfulfilled threats and incidents of bricks thrown through windows. But, for Congressmen concerned about their family's safety, it is worrisome nevertheless. Here's what aghast commentators, and some of the Congressmen themselves, are saying.

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  • Campaign of Fear  Politico's Marin Cogan reports the "death threats" and more to Congressmen: Disgruntled individuals have publicly posted their home addresses, broken windows, and left voicemail messages explicitly threatening death. "The vitriolic health care debate has become personal — too personal, say House Democrats who voted for the bill and now find not just themselves but their families in the cross hairs of opponents."
  • Gas Line Cut in Virginia  Local Charlottesville, VA, newspaper Daily Progress reports, "Federal and local authorities are investigating a severed gas line at the home of U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother, discovered the day after Tea Party activists posted the address online so opponents could 'drop by' and 'express their thanks' for Perriello’s vote in favor of health care reform." David Weigel weighs in, "If there’s any district where blowback against some wild-eyed Tea Party activity could save an incumbent Democrat, it’s this one."
  • Sarah Palin: 'Don't Retreat, RELOAD'  Sarah Palin tweets, "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page." Here's what's on her page: A map of House Democrats vulnerable in the 2010 election, each with targets over their district:
  • 'Whatever'  Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias applauds the nonchalant reaction by Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello, who said, "Whatever. [...] I've lived in Sierra Leone for two years, where the life expectancy is 34 years old. If the worst thing that happens is that special-interest groups spend millions of dollars against me and my most ardent opponents organize against me, it’s hardly a ‘cry me a river’ moment — as long as people act civil and within the law." Yglesias reacts, "Members of Congress who are able to put their own careers in proper perspective are exactly the kind of members of Congress that we need the most."
  • Setting Up Republican Backlash?  Time's Joe Klein reminds us, "The Republican Party has to be very careful about where it's headed. After all, it was protesters shouting "baby killer" at U.S. troops in the 60s that helped put the Democratic Party in the American doghouse for 40 years.

All this follows the online exhortations of militia leader Mike Vanderboegh of Pinson, Alabama – who wrote on his blog “Sipsy Street Irregulars” this past Friday: “if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat party headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.” The parallels, intentional or not, to the Nazis' heinous 1938 kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” so-named for the 7,000 storefront windows that were smashed, are hard to ignore.

  • 'Wingnuts' Get Desperate?  Liberal blogger John Cole scoffs, "what they could not achieve in the ballot box they are attempting to achieve through violence and intimidation. [...] It is just a coincidence that gun nuts, militia movements, and angry mobs are on the rise. It has nothing to do with the fact that Obama is President and Republicans are whipping people into a froth on a daily basis."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.