Yesterday, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa said in a warm-up speech for an appearance by President Obama in Detroit that unions would serve as the Democrats’ army in a war against conservatives and Tea Party activists where they would “take these son-of-a-bitches out.” Also on Monday, Vice President Biden referred to his political opponents as “barbarians at the gate” who must be stopped. When asked about Hoffa’s remarks the next day on the “Fox and Friends” cable news program, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz refused to condemn or disassociate her party from such sentiments.
It seems as if it was more than just a year ago the main Democratic Party talking point was that Republicans and Tea Partiers had unleashed a wave of incivility that threatened the very foundations of American democracy. This was a frequent theme throughout the 2010 campaign and culminated with Democrats and liberal pundits blaming the GOP for the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords by an apolitical lunatic in early 2011. But since this attempt to demonize conservatives as both violent and anti-democratic failed, Democrats have begun to consistently resort to violent rhetoric of their own, as Monday’s barrage proved. This shift raises not only the obvious question of hypocrisy but also one about the liberal worldview in which those who disagree with Democrats can be dismissed as foes to be “taken out” rather than opponents to be debated.
We have just finished a contentious summer in which congressional conservatives who insisted the government must cut spending rather than raise taxes to curb the deficit were widely branded as “terrorists” by a host of Democrats including the vice president himself. Tea Party activists have been accused, without any proof, in the mainstream media of racism, simply because they oppose the policies of the first African American president of the United States. Having been chided by their base for being unwilling to be more combative, Democrats are now taking up the rhetoric of war while at the same time still blaming Republicans for the lack of civility in Washington.
The problem with this tactic is not only the blatant insincerity of a party which claims partisan rhetoric from their foes threatens democracy while at the same time claiming the right to speak of conservatives in even harsher terms. It is that it is a clear sign of weakness. While Tea Party anger at congressional big spenders and taxers may have seemed over the top at times, it was the product of a genuine grass roots effort to change Washington’s political culture. Bereft of serious policy alternatives and unwilling to engage them on the issues, the Democratic attempt to brand their political opponents as terrorists and barbarians is a reactionary reflex intended to suppress the speech of those on the other side of the aisle. If anything is a threat to democracy, it is this Bolshevik impulse to delegitimize conservatives.