July 29, 2009

We've already seen evidence, particularly from the last round on July 4, that the "Tea Party" movement was attracting a significant bloc of extremists of various stripes: conspiracy theorists (particularly Birthers), xenophobes, anti-government radicals, gun nuts. And they're not just filling the ranks -- they're taking leadership roles, particularly in speaking at their events.

When this bloc starts taking over, you have to start wondering where all this is going. Because you know it's not going to be a healthy direction.

Greta Van Susteren last night featured a segment on an incident in St. Louis in which the local teabaggers came out in force to "hijack" a public forum on health care hosted by Sen. Claire McCaskill's office. She and her guest, Dana Loesch, were eager to applaud the "hijacjking," but the whole thing was actually pretty disturbing.

A couple of things stood out: First, the pretense that "this isn't about political parties" is manifest nonsense. These events are about stopping Barack Obama, the newly elected president, from enacting the very policies he campaigned for and was indeed elected to enact.

Trying to pretend that it's anything else simply doesn't wash any longer. Anyone who can say with a straight face that they voted for Obama but oppose what he's doing with health care -- when in fact he openly and significantly campaigned on promises he would enact just this kind of program -- is a pretty good liar, but a liar nonetheless.

More disturbing, I thought, was the way the teabaggers used their numbers to shout down their opposition and generally intimidate the town-hall nature of the forum. What was supposed to have been an open discussion of the issues instead became a pushy shoutfest. That's not how democracy works. It's ugly when the left does it, and it's ugly when the right does it too.

Is this what the Tea Parties are morphing into? Street theater for the right, becoming increasingly extremist in nature, and increasingly prone to disruptive tactics? The disenfranchised right is getting desperate, and this sure looks to be the direction they're heading.

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