It’s hard not to be distressed by the adolescent level to which political debate has degenerated in our country. Whether one likes everything or anything about the new health care bill or not, its clear purpose is to make possible a healthier and better life for a larger portion of America’s hard-working people. The bill seeks to do a good thing, but to hear its defeated opponents, one would think the measure demands that every citizen be tattooed with the mark of the beast.
“We won’t let it stand!” they declare. “Repeal and recall!” they exclaim. “Baby killer!” one shouts. Former VP candidate Sarah Palin posts a map on her Facebook page with gunsight crosshairs targeting Democrats she deems to be defeatable. “Don’t retreat!” she implores in a tweet. “Instead, RELOAD!” Even the once-reasonable John McCain has fallen prey to the fear-mongers. When he blatantly announced that the Republicans would not work with the Democrats on anything for the rest of the year, he sounded less like a senior senator than a ticked-off sixth-grader who decides to take his ball and go home.
Right wing radio and TV talkers continue to spout lies, call names, and fan the flames of extremism, and gullible people buy it. Tea Party activists spout such ideological rants that even the most rational Republicans forsake all negotiation for fear of being turned out of office. Misinformed citizens, stirred into a mob-like frenzy, call in death threats and vandalize the offices of those who voted for the bill. Just watch TV footage of some recent wild-eyed protests and you’d think America is turning into the land of the scream and the home of the rave.
The politicos and pundits who distort the truth and energize the screamers may think they are doing the country a favor by seeking to demonize President Obama and to derail every good thing he wants to do. At some point, however, I expect them to realize that they’ve done their job too well, and it will backfire.
Increasingly, Republican lawmakers are being forced into the same mold of obstreperous obstructionists who are tightly controlled by undisciplined ideologues. At some point, voters will have to ask themselves: “Are these the kind of people we want calling the shots for our country?”
When reason prevails, those who feed fanaticism may find that the monster they have created isn’t picky about whom it bites.