No Surprise Teabaggers Resorting to Violence

There’s been a rash of relatively small-scale poilical violence, brick throwing, verbal threats, that sort of thing, directed at supporters of healthcare reform, but now it seems someone has tried to kill Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA).

Some people have pointed out that this is the natural extention of an essentially authoritarian movement, and that’s fair enough. It’s certainly true that an element of the American conservative movement has adopted rhetoic and tactics that are boilerplate for fascist movements, and the only thing left is widespread violence against political opponents, but I think the particularly American strain of wingnutism has a more complex sense of identity that leads to this point. Essentially, as both Digby and Amanda Marcotte often write about, the conservative movement is built around the belief that everyone else’s opinion is illegitimate, and basically as been since Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” campaign. This attitude is put most starkly on display when conservatives disparage East coasters, even though a huge amount of the population is concentrated on the Eastern seaboard, or when Sarah Palin praises small-towns as the home of “Real Americans.” Implicit in the framing is the idea that non-conservatives are interlopers, that their ideas, and even their existence, is illegitimate. This is why I take claims that conservative anger is based around Obama’s blackness; they do this pretty much every time they’re out of power, even when the Democratic President is a white Southern male.  If you believe you are by definition representative of the majority at all times, and all viewpoints other than yours are fundamentally illegitimate, you can’t really process electoral or legislative defeats any way other than by assuming them to be the result of some nefarious skull-duggery, which is why Republican attacks on procedure had such resonance with the right-wing. Aside from the generic ability to oppose the other side, it gave them the rationalization they needed for loss; Democrats cheated.

Of course, central to the survival of this worldview is the assumption that they do, in fact, represent a majority of the people in the country. It’s why conservatives talk about what “the American people” want so often, and why “coast vs. heartland” culture warring is framed from the presumption that land mass is of more importance than population. If the perception that the right-wing movement is supported by a majority and that only they’re ideas are legitimate/Constitutional/whatever is punctured, their entire political argument goes up in smoke.  But in the meantime, it’s a toxic mix of self-righteousness, hate, and paranoia, the logical extension of which is to perpetuate violence against people who don’t agree with you. After all, if Democrats just ignored the will of the overwhelming majority of the population and cheated the legislative process to implement a plan to literally destroy the country, why wouldn’t you resort to violence in response?

The only questions left to ask are how many people will die before we get serious about addressing it this time, and whether or not it will take another catastrophe like this.