"Don't retreat, just reload."
— Sarah Palin, siren of the half-wits
They filled up voice mail systems with hate-filled messages. One spat on Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri. Another called Georgia Congressman John Lewis a "nigger" — Lewis, a 1960s hero who had his skull fractured for daring to think he should be able to vote.
They waved a sign that was arguably an illegal call to violence, saying, "If Brown can't do it, a Browning can."
Their goddess, the leering, defiantly ignorant Sarah Palin, stopped scribbling on her hands long enough to lend her name to a campaign commercial showing rifle cross-hairs targeting a number of Democratic congressional districts. Her slogan: "Don't retreat, just reload."
Yes, I know. Why, silly liberals, that's just symbolic rhetoric. Naturally, the former governor of Alaska is being defended by the sort of people who flew into a rage when the former H. Rap Brown made the sadly true observation that "Violence is as American as cherry pie."
Outraged conservatives wanted ol' Rap, then a prominent civil rights leader, hanged, drawn and quartered, and deported. To be fair, Rap, later restyled as Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, did turn out to be a bad'un. Years later, he killed a black cop and was sentenced to spend the rest of his days in the federal supermax pen in Colorado.
He ended up doing both progressives and people of color far more harm than good. In fact, the radical left signed its own death warrant in this nation when it turned to violence. The mad bombers of groups like the Weather Underground were immensely helpful to politicians like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and their calls for "law and order."
Now, it seems to be the far right's turn, Democrat Bart Stupak, a former state trooper who represents the U.P. in Congress, is a devout Roman Catholic, as anti-abortion as they come. For a long time, he opposed the bill because he was concerned it didn't contain enough safeguards against federal funding of abortions.
He was eventually persuaded to support the bill when President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the use of any federal funds both for abortions and any health care plan that covers them. Those who believe in freedom of choice found that outrageous, but bit their tongues because they didn't want health care reform to fail. But Stupak's victory did not placate the haters and the nuts.
Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas, a boorish, gross creature who clearly wanted campaign contributions and his five minutes of fame, yelled, "Baby killer!" at Stupak on the floor of the House.
A bewildered Bart got death threats that led to him having to unplug his home phone line. Eventually, he was even given protection by his former colleagues on the state police force.
Stupak was far from alone. Bricks were thrown through congressional office windows. A propane line was cut at the home of a Virginia congressman's brother, after "Tea Party" activists posted his address online and told people to drop by and "express their thanks" for his vote favoring health care reform.
What we have here are right-wing yahoos acting like ignorant Nazi street gangs did in Germany in the early 1930s, before their beloved führer ended democracy. And no, that's not too strong a comparison. "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," Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times. Indeed, they are ignorant.
But sadly, too many Americans are ignorant too. The smarter right-wingers know this — and fear correctly that when the people do understand what this health reform is, they will overwhelmingly support it. The new law's enemies, you see, are really defending the short-term interests of the big insurance companies.
They failed to stop reform, and their hopes of somehow repealing it are slipping away. Already, the Big Lie that the people hate President Obama's reforms is losing credibility. Last week, a Gallup poll found that by a margin of 49 percent to 40 percent, people were happy the bill had been passed.
That will go up when people learn the truth. Last week, I talked to a class of college seniors. Similarly, about two-fifths of them were opposed to the new law as well. Why? "Socialized medicine," one said. "I'm against socialism," said another.
OK, I said. But, "Would you support a bill that requires people to buy health insurance from a private insurer, and prevents private insurers from cutting them off for being sick?"
"Well, yeah," one said, as they all nodded. "That would be OK. That's a good idea." Does anybody not like that? I asked. No, not one. When I told them that is what the president's health care bill did, they were stunned.
Health care reform is here to stay, all right. Now we just need to make sure that the good guys are too. For there is a difference between today and the 1960s: Mainstream liberal Democrats did not egg on the violent left.
But we have Michael Steele, Republican National Committee chairman, saying "Let's get Nancy [Pelosi] ready for the firing line this weekend." House Minority Leader John Boehner, an odd creature with a cigarette voice and a fake tan, talked of "Armageddon."
And, of course, there's Palin. She was off last week campaigning for Arizona Republican John McCain. Once a man of integrity, he has been reduced to hoping the caribou-killing nitwit he elevated out of nowhere can help him stave off a right-wing Senate primary challenge.
Yet worse lurk in the weeds. There are lots of unhappy people out there, playing solitaire with less than a full deck. Just follow the headines on our homegrown Hutaree militia. The GOP ought to consider what harm might come from the dogs it unleashes.
So who will the Republicans nominate for president in 2012? If you know history, there is little doubt: The nominee will be Mitt Romney.
How do I know? Partly, from a lifetime of watching how Republicans work. They almost always give the nod to the guy who finished second the last time. Consider: Ronald Reagan lost the 1976 nomination; he got it in 1980.George H. W. Bush came in second in 1980; he got the nomination in 1988. Bob Dole lost to Bush in 1988; he ran in '96. John McCain lost to Bush the lesser in 2000; he got the prize in 2008 ... after beating out Mitt Romney.
Plus, Mittster has a few other things going; he is handsome and rich, which always helps, and will look moderate, reasonable and statesman-like, compared to clowns like Palin and Mike Huckabee and dullards like Tim Pawlenty.
Besides, he was the author of a health care reform in Massachusetts that is very much like President Obama's. Two years from now, people will realize that they like that their kids can stay on their health insurance through college. They will like even better that they can't have their health insurance canceled because they have cancer. By 2012, the GOP will be talking about "improving" health care reform.
Still, I could be wrong, and the Republicans might in the end nominate some far-out Tea Party darling. If that happens, look for Obama to win a historic electoral vote landslide.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]