Healthcare reform: America, the violent? How the political parties are complicit.
Throughout US history, major change has begotten radical rhetoric from both political parties. Healthcare reform is no different – and heated words can sometimes spark violence.
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"When House minority leader John Boehner calls fellow Rep. Steve Driehaus 'a dead man' for voting for the health insurance bill, and Driehaus consequently receives death threats, I think we can see a connection," he saidSkip to next paragraph
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Teasing out the reality from the rhetoric, however, isn't easy – particularly in the current viral climate, where YouTube, blogs, and television news become instant echo chambers for every sleight.
For every truly reprehensible act of bigotry or violence, there are also instances of misrepresentation to manufacture controversy and "[criminalize] political dissent," as the conservative columnist Michelle Malkin puts it.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D) of Missouri says he was spit upon at an anti-healthcare "tea party" rally where other Democratic lawmakers heard racial epithets. Conservatives say the spit was merely wayward saliva in a yelling match.
At least weekend's tea party in Searchlight, Nev., a tea party bus was egged. Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart says anti-tea party protesters did it, then tried to blame him when the police arrived.
The cycles of accusation
The incidents – and the accusations and counter-accusations that followed – are parts of a recurring cycle, says Mr. Geer.
Today, many conservatives say liberal agitators and even leaders like House majority whip James Clyburn have embarked on a misinformation campaign to tar modern-day conservatism as the territory of the slightly unhinged.
Five years ago, though, it was liberals who were on the defensive. Many liberals said conservatives were trying to cast them as "unpatriotic" simply because they didn't fall into lockstep with President Bush's post-9/11 antiterror policies.
Historically, losing parties take their time to readjust "to the middle," says Geer.
On healthcare, "the strong reactions from Republicans could put them on the fringe," he adds. "But if the healthcare reform backfires, then it's going to hurt the Democrats."