I don’t know that much about Lincoln. But I do know a fair amount about his assassin. This is primarily because he was the brother of the great Shakespearean actor Edmund Booth. And knowing what I know, the flaming rhetoric of people like Ted Nugent concerns me greatly.
Most people pass off the right wing’s talk of tyranny and socialism as nothing but overblown rhetoric. But there is a consequence of this. Booth and all of his comrades spoke the equivalent language about Lincoln. In his mind, killing the president was not a crazy thing. He was surprised that the people did not rise up and proclaim him a hero.
This is why the right wing echo chamber most concerns me. I don’t think that Ted Nugent would try to kill the president. (Although it isn’t out of the question: John Wilkes Booth was a minor star like Nugent.) The problem is that when viewers only hear others calling President Obama a tyrant, they can very easily believe that it is not only true, but is also what everyone believes. And that is very dangerous.
Of course, others might note that I commonly say that the Republicans are a proto-fascist party. I think there are two key differences. First, I never call for violence; I flirt terribly with pacifism. Second, I never claim that my beliefs are what everyone believes. And third, I am making a fine distinction. I don’t claim that the Republican Party is a Nazi group or that they are even fascists. They have fascist tendencies: nationalism, crony capitalism, anti-egalitarianism, anti-science, anti-minority. They aren’t to full-blow fascism yet and hopefully they never will be.
There is a fundamental difference between being the loyal opposition and, well, the disloyal opposition. The loyal opposition takes it for granted that the other party may be terribly wrong about policy, but they are not trying to destroy our very democracy. Of course, such disloyal opposition causes the Republican Party to do things that make the Democrats mistrust their motivations as well. Witness the “voter fraud” campaign of the Republicans. Because they believe that real Americans could never vote for that Kenyan socialist baby killer Barack Obama, they want to invalidate the whole concept of democracy. Many of them, anyway.
But the bigger issue is that such talk and behavior on the right can and does lead to violence. I feel very confident that the Secret Service are able to protect the president. But what of others not so highly placed? For many people the only reason they are Republicans is that they believe (wrongly) that Democrats want to take away their guns. Given that, there’s no end of nonsense that can be drilled into their heads. Take Byron Williams, for example. He is the guy who was going to assassinate the people at the Tides Foundation because he believed that Glenn Beck was singling for him to do this. In the interview with Media Matters, Williams did not seem insane. His reading of Beck’s ranting seems reasonable to me.
And that is the problem.