Yes, I know; Right wing violence is nothing new. The Oklahoma City bombing, carried out by militia types, was, until 9/11, the deadliest act of terror on American soil.
But I am not talking about militias or white supremacists. I am talking about Tea Party Republicans.
I first became aware of the possibility of coming violence from the Right in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings, when there was a swing in the public mood toward more regulations for firearms. Several bourgeois friends, straight-arrow Catholic Republicans, when pressed as to why anyone would need an assault rifle for hunting or self defense, answered that they were needed to resist government tyranny.
That these mild-mannered conservatives were considering armed revolt gave me pause.
Then there was the poll that showed that 44% of Republicans believe that armed insurgency may become necessary. Now, this poll does not show that 44% of Republicans would in fact pick up a weapon and start shooting; the percentages of people who would actually act on their convictions is always small. But even if 2 or 3% of that 44% would act we are talking about a lot of people.
Certainly the rhetoric on the Right encourages this sort of thing; tune into nearly any conservative talk show and you will hear irresponsible and inflammatory speech. The President “hates America” and “wants to destroy this nation” (Limbaugh). He is a Marxist or a communist or a socialist or a radical or a jihadist. He is trying to strip us of our freedoms, and may not even be a legitimate president at all.
That Mr Obama often acts like a petty tyrant does not help matters, nor does the recent revelation of the extent of government surveillance (which to be fair predates Mr Obama).
When you look at Right wing mailings it is even worse. I know, I am a letter carrier, and for years have noted the contrast between political mailings from political organizations on the Right and the Left.
About the most fired-up piece of mail you will see from a liberal group is one that shows prominent Republicans with Pinocchio noses.
The Right? You will find alarmist warnings that Obama is trying to implement Sharia Law, that he is an Islamic Trojan Horse, that he is about to betray our sovereignty, etc. (Probably the worst demagogue on the Right is Allen Keyes, who was once an eloquent defender of unborn children and is now a sort of Al Sharpton of the conservative wing of things).
So if you think the President does not hold his office legally, is a traitor and a secret friend of Islamic terror, what are you going to do?
Well, you join some conservative organization or other and you try and influence elections.
And if you lose big, like in the last presidential election? Then you argue that the Party was not conservative enough.
And here is the conundrum: if you win the struggle for the direction of the Party, you are going to lose the election even worse than you did the last time; this is simple demographics.
But if the Party changes its positions to gain young and minority voters? Then the Tea Party bolts, and whatever third party it forms…loses.
So it seems that any future scenario ends up with some very angry and politically impotent people.
And they are well armed.
The higher argument against armed revolution is of course the moral one. But there are certainly practical arguments as well: to think one can successfully defeat the State with violence is pretty stupid. The Massillon, Ohio, city police have a room full of automatic weapons. God knows what the feds have, but your semi-automatic rifles are no threat to them, though of course on a smaller scale they can do a lot of damage.
I certainly hope I am wrong about this, but the fact that letters with Ricin in them were recently sent to gun control proponents is not encouraging.
Certainly all the signs point to a rising tide of Right wing violence: the bourgeois revolutionists may be coming.