Obama

Town Hall Meetings and the Far Right

| Fri Aug. 14, 2009 9:38 AM EDT

It’s one thing to forcefully argue for health care reform, including dramatic changes to Obama’s proposals—and quite another to join in activities that threaten physical harm. It's becoming increasingly clear that some of the tactics and violent rhetoric employed by far-right extremists is now being directed at members of Congress at town hall meetings on health care reform.  Below the jump, a report from the Washington Post on one of these confrontations, with newly minted Democratic Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania:

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The exchange between Specter and one man broadcast throughout the day on cable television—culminated with the senator asking whether the man would like to leave the meeting and the man responding, to applause from some in the crowd: “One day God’s going to stand before you, and he’s going to judge you and the rest of your damned cronies up on the Hill.”

Earlier in the week, Buzzflash featured a personal report by Maria Allwine on the crowds outside a town hall meeting with Senator Ben Cardin in the Baltimore suburbs, which she attended with a group of single-payer advocates:

I have never seen such hatred, vitriol and racism in all my life—and I do not say that lightly.  It made me physically ill—I could stand the heat, but I couldn’t stand the hatred and racism.  We all read about it, we know it—but having it in your face in such large and angry numbers is hard to deal with.  There were posters of Obama as Hitler, the Democratic Nazi Party, Keep Your Laws Off My Body (except for abortion—I asked) and various and sundry examples of ugliness.  Some Lyndon LaRouche supporters along with anti-immigration and tort reform.  Also a lot of “killing the elderly, euthanasia” type signs.  And of course, our favorite— “No Socialism.”  As I looked across Osler at these people, they were screaming and angry—and they often came over to where we were to provoke us and to out-shout us. The comments to me as I walked up and down with my signs were appalling. …

Folks, this is NOT about healthcare or anything remotely resembling policy or any particular issue.  This is about the naked anger of the right wing being out of power and not accepting a black man as President combined with their own racism.

The right-wing swiftboating that has characterized the last two presidential campaigns has taken a racialist turn before. In Pennsylvania during Democratic primary campaign, even reporters were taken aback at some of the racist epithets aimed at Obama. Similar issues resurfaced at some of Sarah Palin’s rallies during the general election. And it’s back in force at the town halls.

It’s this sort of wild, threatening talk that puts law enforcement on the alert for people taking matters into their own hands. Militias are once more on the rise. And the FBI is conducting a broad reconnaisance effort to locate "lone wolf killers" whom they fear will turn to armed action, along the lines of the murder of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller and the Holocaust Museum attack, not to mention the earlier and less publicized murder of two Pittsburgh police officers. As USA Today reported:

Federal authorities have launched an effort to detect lone attackers who may be contemplating politically charged assaults similar to the recent murders of a Kansas abortion doctor and a Holocaust museum security guard.The effort...was started shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, in part because of a rising level of hate speech and surging gun sales.

A version of this post is cross-posted at Unsilent Generation.

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