A new USA Today/Gallup poll out this morning shows that more Americans blame the Democrats more than any other group when it comes to the inciting the violence and vandalism that have spread across the country in the week since health care reform became law. Fifty percent said passing the bill was a "bad thing," while 47% said it was a good thing.*
When asked about the violence, 49% of the 1,009 adults surveyed over the weekend said the "Democratic tactics" are a "major reason" for the violent incidents. Forty-six percent said conservative media was responsible, and 43% blamed the attacks on the rhetoric of Republican political leaders.
If that's the case, then our democratic system of government is effectively dead. Any minority party can simply block all legislation, make up a bunch of bullshit about "tactics," threaten them with violence and the people will back them. (Unless they are Democrats, of course, in which case they will be told the "elections have consequences" and be called obstructionists who refuse to allow the governing party the room they need to govern.)
If passing a party line vote in the US Congress is asking for violence and threats we have big, big problems.
I actually think it's worse than this because Digby has made a mistake.
The mistake is thinking that people are actually answering the question as asked. In other words, at this point in our political discourse, words lack meaning in any rational sense. This response is essentially "Democrats are BAD!!!" As Digby notes, Democratic supporters wouldn't have been justified in threatening Republicans for the party-line votes they passed during Little Lord Pontchartrain's administration. What this poll suggests to me is that about half of the U.S. doesn't like Romneycare-for-All. If someone had asked as a followup, "Do you think threats against the GOP would have been justified?", I think some people would have changed their answers.
We have now reached the point where any political statement longer than three to five words has little or no concrete meaning to many Americans who 'agree' with that statement. And that level of stupidity really is unprecedented.
I blame the Democrats for most of the violence and threats that we've seen recently because Democrats have committed most of the violent acts that we've seen recently. It's not rocket science. On the one hand, we have retracted claims of spitting on, and yelling racial slurs at, members of Congress. On the other hand, we have eggs thrown at buses (plus Kenneth Gladney and other well-documented cases of liberal thuggery).
"that level of stupidity really is unprecedented"
Maybe this is not stupidity, but the conflict between a basic tribalistic response and normal intelligence: first comes the primal response "I don't like them, therefore I want them to be hurt", then the human intelligence intervene, and the person start to think "wait, if I react that way, I will look like a sadistic bully, I'd rather be seen as rational and principled" and to talk about tactics and provocation.
People who aren't very intelligent can be easily placated, and this poll demonstrates that most Americans aren't very intelligent.
If you want to look at a shining example of left-wing rabble rousing, look no further than Greenpeace's recent blog entry where Greenpeace had to clarify (wink wink, nudge nudge) that "We know where you live. We know where you work." was just a call to civil disobedience threat and that they didn't really mean for people to post death threats or rape fantasies. At least not in that post's comments -- reading them there was undesired, reading them somewhere else is presumably okay.
I don't think the violence, at least recently, has been equal on all sides. It is quite obvious that, recently at least, it has been worse on the right. That's because the right has had more to fear recently. But, that's only recently. Neither side has a lock on violence. It is not the politics, of any shade, that creates violence. It is an authoritarian mindset that says only my opinion counts.
In other words, something to the effect of "if my wife would just do what I say, I wouldn't have to beat her."
In any case I condemn it all. Anything short of passive resistance, Ã la Ghandi, is unacceptable in my books.
Do you have data to make it "quite obvious" to someone -- say, who hasn't been following the news for the last year, or who isn't swayed by isolated anecdotes -- that conservatives have been responsible for more or worse violence lately? I've seen reports of vandalism on both sides, police statements that Congressmembers on both sides of the aisle have been threatened, and heat-of-the-moment violence against people (where conservatives seem to end up with more physical damage). It's far from clear that there is an epidemic of either threats or actual violence, or that the behavior from the right comes anywhere close to what happens at most G8 summits (such as the one in Pittsburgh in September).
I think only idiots actually respond to polls, it's that simple. I mean, how do they contact people to poll - by phone? Who answers calls from someone they don't personally know anymore? People who don't have caller ID, that's who. And people who are so eager to talk, they'll answer to anyone. And people who still have land line phones. So, they're only polling a shrinking segment of the population.
By the way, I'm not trying to be snide or anything. I'm pretty familiar with the right-wing set of examples of political violence, but I'm also sure that right-wing coverage is subject to conscious and unconscious biases. Looking at left-wing responses to those examples (which mostly involve ridicule and maybe a few seconds of low-res footage), I suspect the same is true from that side.
In an ideal world, both sides would examine their worst examples and learn how to refocus their energy towards acceptable and productive means of demonstration. In an imperfect world, when someone wants to marginalize their opponents as violent thugs -- which Mike the Mad Biologist and Rush Limbaugh are both inclined to do -- it's important to know whether those accusations are well-founded or just part of one side's narrative.
Michael, I think one important aspect is to consider left-wing vs. right-wing support for this stuff. ALF or PETA hardly have the support of even a decent amount of the Democratic base, but the teabaggers? They get actual government officials attending their rallies. It seems to me that Democrats are pretty quick to make it clear that violence is unacceptable, whereas Republicans ignore the problem and pretend it's happening to them too (e.g., the R who claimed someone shot his office window out when it was obvious it was a stray bullet). Is it really that much to ask for Republicans to say that assault weapons at political rallies are a bad idea?