Friday, November 6, 2009

Demagoguery on the Rise (again)

Apparently, my "dynamic duo of demagoguery," Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, will have to make room for a third party, sacrificing their alliteration and becoming an "unholy trinity." According to a report last night from Associated Press Writer Laurie Kellman, House Republican from Minnesota Michelle Bachmann wants in on the game and seems to be getting her way:

Chanting "Kill the bill," thousands of conservatives incensed over the Democrats' health care overhaul protested at the Capitol on Thursday, arguing that the legislation amounts to a government takeover of the nation's medical system.

The crowd, invited on national television by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was staunchly anti-government — "Politicians lie, people die," read one sign — but loudly cheered the House Republicans who hosted the event. The protest attracted many of the so-called Tea Party demonstrators angry with increased spending and an expanded government role under the Obama administration.

Note how this "invitation" was proffered:

On Oct. 30, she invited viewers of Fox News to Washington to roam House office buildings and confront lawmakers.

"I'd love to have every one of your viewers join me so that we can go up and down through the halls," Bachmann said. "Find members of Congress, look at the whites of their eyes and say, 'Don't take away my health care.'"

The Republican leadership seems at bit ambivalent over one of the lesser members of their ranks summoning the latest march on Washington; but House Republican leader John Boehner seems to know a good bandwagon when he sees one. He appeared before Bachmann's roused rabble to encourage them with this bit of persiflage:

This bill is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen.

For those who might find my phrase "roused rabble" a bit extreme, Kellman offered some examples of this particular vox populi approach:

The crowd, including many older Americans, carried placards that ranged from pithy — "Free health care isn't free" — to harsh.

"Ken-ya Trust Obama?" said one, referencing the president's African roots and claims by some that he wasn't born in the United States.

One protester carried a sign reading, "Bury Obamacare with Kennedy," a reference to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who died of brain cancer this past summer.

Of course none of this is really about health care. It is all about certain Republicans determined to recover political power by any means necessary, and the means that seem to be most effective are the ones grounded in passionately emotional divisiveness. It is hard to forecast where that divisiveness will lead, regardless of whether or not health care gets the reform it so desperately needs; but I continue to believe that our best model for forecasting may still be the historical data on the rise of the Third Reich. At the very least, this should have what the media used to call (back in the days when they still respected qualities such as civility) a "chilling effect."

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