You’ve heard all the stories by now. You’ve heard about the spitting. The racial slurs. The death threats. The bricks thrown at windows. The insults lobbed at bereaved little kids and Parkinson’s patients. Now the Republicans have at last realized that this isn’t the face they want to project to America, so high-profile people have condemned the violent response to health care reform. Sarah Palin. John McCain. Glenn Beck (taking time out from his feud with James Cameron). John Boehner. The Tea Party. All this is terrific. Where were you guys last August?
There are still a few bitter holdouts acting as apologists for the lawbreakers, to wit: the reports of violence are being overblown by the evil mainstream media (Instapundit), the lefties started the political violence under Bush (Glenn Beck, in the above link), the Democrats are a bunch of wimpy kids who can’t shrug off a death threat (Sen. Lindsey Graham). Weakest of all is Rep. Eric Cantor, who blamed the Democratic victims and also claimed that a bullet had been fired at his office. (The police report actually clarifies that it’s an office occasionally used by Cantor, and the bullet hit the window while traveling in an extreme downward direction. So either the shooter was seething with anger over health care and also had an amazing grasp of trigonometry and ballistics, or this was a stray shot fired in the air from some distance away that just happened to hit this building on its way down.) All this is enough to make us nostalgic for the days when liberals were the ones making threadbare excuses for criminal activity.
Of course, some Republicans called this correctly, like the former Bush staffer David Frum in his postmortem (for which he’s already suffered some consequences). Too many on the right, though, are still blinded by the small-scale short-term thinking that got them into this position. Beck’s announcement was revealing: “They need you to be violent. They are begging for it. … It’s exactly what they want.” Beck seems to think that Dems will be rejoicing if there’s a bombing or a shooting someplace, because that’ll ensure they get to keep their Congressional majorities. That’s wrong. The White House and the Democrats in Congress didn’t pass the health care bill hoping to inspire violence that would translate to political gain. They passed it because — rightly or wrongly — they believed it would make life better for millions of working Americans.
People like Beck and Newt Gingrich can’t understand this, because they think everyone else in politics is as cynical as they are. Had the Republicans operated from a different assumption, they might have made the bill more palatable to themselves. Now they’re stuck with a policy change that even a landslide victory in the 2010 midterms won’t erase, and they’ve proved that the president doesn’t need them to get stuff done. If they don’t correct their course soon, they’ll be irrelevant. That’ll make people even more angry.