Frank Rich has the quote of the day for his comment on the irony of those in the tea party movement who compare Obama to Hitler:
How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far.
Rich notes that this rage came in response to a fairly moderate health care bill, although the tea baggers are inflamed more by the Republican rhetoric than anything actually in the bill. Rich notes that, while there was spirited opposition to earlier programs such as Medicare, it was never seen to the degree we are seeing it now:
That a tsunami of anger is gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare, an epic entitlement that actually did precipitate a government takeover of a sizable chunk of American health care. But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964…
If Obama’s first legislative priority had been immigration or financial reform or climate change, we would have seen the same trajectory. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House — topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman — would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority in the country no matter what policies were in play. It’s not happenstance that Frank, Lewis and Cleaver — none of them major Democratic players in the health care push — received a major share of last weekend’s abuse. When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from.
Rich also compared the response to the health care legislation to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although that legislation had a far greater effect on society than the health care legislation, conservatives acted more responsibly after it was passed:
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, some responsible leaders in both parties spoke out to try to put a lid on the resistance and violence. The arch-segregationist Russell of Georgia, concerned about what might happen in his own backyard, declared flatly that the law is “now on the books.” Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palin’s “reload” rhetoric.
Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too.
Rich is right that the rage extends far beyond health care. Some in the tea party movement are essentially Klansmen without the sheets, but the rage also extends beyond race. There is a long history of extremism based upon ignorance dominating the right wing in this country. One factor which makes this worse today, explaining the differences described by Rich, is the influence of the right wing noise machine.
The constant noise coming from Fox, talk radio, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and conservative blogs creates an alternative reality which these people actually believe is real. Their influence has even pulled the mainstream media sharply to the right, despite claims of a “liberal media” from the far right. As a result we have angry, uninformed people taking to the streets to support those who are undermining our freedom and the free market system while being deluded into thinking this is what they are defending.