The curb stomping at the Rand Paul/Jack Conway debate has, with good reason, been capturing a lot of attention. It's one of those iconic moments that distills so much into one shocking image. But it's just one in an escalating tide of Tea Party-inspired right wing thuggery, some of which has been endorsed by the candidates. Digby has rounded up many examples: Joe Miller playing the part of the big man by hiring militia types for "security", Allen West doing the same with a motorcycle gang, and of course various acts of right wing terrorism, including Dr. Tiller's murder. Our country's been in worse shape in terms of political violence before, but I think that's why this is all so scary---we have a national myth that those days are behind us, and we've grown as a people. And yet.
In another post, Digby highlights the the double standards they establish.
It's quite interesting that so many of the tea party candidates are having "unauthorized" people who ask them questions arrested (or restrained and assaulted by their followers) when it was just a year ago that this was how they instructed their own people to behave at political meetings:
This morning, Politico reported that Democratic members of Congress are increasingly being harassed by “angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior” at local town halls.
This double standard doesn't surprise me at all. They simply think they're Real Americans, and the rest of us aren't, therefore they get to do what they want and the rest of us are eligible to sit down and shut up, or take a beating.
There's a fetish right now for blaming this crazy level of right wing populist fury on the economy. And while I think bad times are increasing tension, my feeling is the economy doesn't have as much to do with this as people think. If Obama was presiding over unprecedented prosperity, the wingnuts would still be out in droves, and at best their arguments would be slightly changed. I would point out that political thuggery from modern movement conservatives is hardly new, and arguably helped swing the 2000 election, by giving the Supreme Court a reason to argue that they had to shut down the vote counting to keep the peace. At the time, they called it the "Brooks Brothers riot", a cadre of young Republicans flown into Florida to intimidate poll workers and shut down the vote counting, lest it reveal Gore the winner.
Can't point to the economy as a reason for it then.
I have an alternate theory, that goes back to the "I want my country back" slogan. Ever since Nixon, Republicans have run, in one way or another, on the grounds that they're the party of Real Americans, in opposition to those hippies/queers/welfare queens/multiculturalists/feminazis/fill in your scare word. And they've been unbelievably successful with this. There isn't an election since then that they couldn't rationalize, often correctly, is proof that they have the controlling majority of the country. Carter was a fluke, both because of Watergate and because he managed to capture the evangelical vote before it settled comfortably into its rather permanent Republican home. Clinton won---twice---because Ross Perot split the wingnut vote. But each subsequent election, the demographics of this country shifted---growing numbers of non-white voters, single women, and urban white liberals meant this stranglehold on the majority could quite likely disappear.
And frankly, it did in 2000. Gore actually won the popular vote in 2000, fair and square, even while being perceived as a stiff. And the reaction you got was threats of violence, chaos, and a ridiculous Supreme Court decision that amounted to blatant theft. Perhaps we've forgotten because it's too painful to remember. But I believe that's what's coming back, only this time it wasn't subdued by a close call that could be handed unfairly to the Republican. This time, it was a blow out. And all the wingnut fears about losing "their" country have come to pass.
That's what's pissing them off. Economic woes are just one of the bats they're using to beat us with.