Town Hall Meetings and the Far Right

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


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:

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.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate