In the last few days, there has been a rash of reports commenting on the Republican Party’s apparent embrace of violent terminology. You can read about it lots of places, but in case you somehow missed it, here’s an example.
So there appears to be a trend, not necessarily amongst all Republicans (I still like to dream that there are a few fiscal conservatives cowering beneath the onslaught of Moral Imperatives Activists and Obama Is A Fascist lunatics), but certainly amongst some of their most prominent and loud-mouthed representatives. And the contingent of the blogosphere which likes to think of itself as Sensibly Liberal has made the predictable response: they’ve gone into mama-next-door mode and begun worrying about the future of the neighborhood. They’re concerned, and perhaps rightfully so, that one of these days some teabagger out there somewhere is going to stop throwing bricks through windows and pick up a gun.
That could happen. Certainly, there are enough fanatical lunatics out of our 308,956,488 or so people that one or more of them are statistically likely to tumble over the edge any minute. But what I find curious is that no one seems to be asking the obvious question: what does the GOP stand to gain by not condemning language which seems formulated to encourage violent responses?
Let’s assume that most high-level Republicans actually do not want to see President Obama or any Democratic political representative killed. This assumption has nothing to do with their moral character, their moral character is irrelevant. What is relevant is the likelihood that assassinating a high-level Democratic leader would backfire. The Democrats would, of course, be justifiably outraged. The Independents are likely to suddenly decide that maybe one party actually is more apeshit than the other. And don’t forget that quiet little segment of the Republicans, the one that’s wondering how the hell their party got hijacked by these fundamentalists and is just trying to hang in there until the Universe rights itself. They might just decide to get the hell out and start a party that actually represents their interests.
So if the GOP doesn’t actually want people killed, what are they doing?
They’re playing on basic psychology. For years, they have painted the Democrats as pussies. Little, bleeding heart liberals that want to give milk and cookies to the terrorists. Mama’s boys who want to take away their guns because they’re scared they might get hurt. The Republicans, on the other hand, are stalwart pioneers, holding fast to the values that made this country great, and not taking shit off anyone. Basically, they’re engaging primitive tribal impulses by saying “Stick with us, kid. We’re strong, we’re survivors. That other tribe is going to fall into cannibalism any day now, just you watch.”
Democrats have never been good at playing this game. They take umbrage and try to argue that they never said any such thing, that they just want to make the world a better place, blah blah blah. They don’t address the gut fears that the Republicans like to play upon, they just try to make reasonable arguments about why the fears are counterproductive. They apologize when they are insulted. It’s weird, but beyond that it plays right into the GOP’s tactics. Because nobody wants to be on the losing side.
Having lost in the last national election, the Republicans had to do something to shore up confidence in their tribe or risk losing members. So they brought out the tea party notion, completely misappropriated and bastardized, but it didn’t matter…the tribe had something to believe in. Note well…they didn’t have to think about it, they just had to believe. And that got them through that tricky first year after losing control of the government. But then, after a long, seemingly losing battle, the Democrats pulled out a so-called “victory” with health care “reform”. Whatever you may think of the bill, the Republicans had drawn a line in the sand and this was just not supposed to happen. So what to do? Ratchet up the rhetoric. Remind the constituents that they are the strong ones, they are the ones not afraid to “go out and fight”. Whatever may have happened, it’s still our strong tribe against those pussy Democrats, and you know we can always take them if we want to. Hell, those sons of bitches don’t even own guns, do they?
It’s a pity the Democrats were scared to say “you know, there’s really no reason you need to bring a gun to a political rally.” It’s too bad they couldn’t bring themselves to set up a “Fun With Waterboarding Day” on the White House lawn, so that anyone who wanted to could try it, and then indicate whether or not they thought the U.S. Government should be using it as a form of interrogation. It’s rather sad they couldn’t bring themselves to say “Seriously? You’re listening to that fucking idiot?” after Sarah Palin “informed” the nation that health care reform would mean “Death Panels” which would kill their grandparents. I suppose they’re not likely to respond to the current rash of death threats with “Only scaredy cats go around waving their gun in the air. Don’t you have a tea party to get to?” But it sure would be nice, just for a change of pace.
On the other hand, maybe the Dems are out-strategizing the GOP. If the Republicans don’t reign in their dogs soon, one of them really is likely to take a shot. When that happens, the Democrats can finally rest assured of another six years in office.