It is not uncommon for Free Republic whack jobs to call for Obama’s head, but it is odd that the founder of the web site warns those extremists to be cautious lest they attract the Secret Service. Isolated whack jobs on one hand, surely, but in PA the whack jobs are gunning for one of the last GOP moderates, Arlen Specter.
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
It is not news that there are violent whack jobs on the fringe of the Republican Party. The last Presidential campaign gave us plenty of evidence, and we don’t really need Alexandra Pelosi’s film to tell us not only that there are extremist whack jobs out there on the Republican fringe, but that those whack jobs can be pretty disturbing in their use of language. It is easy to slough it off and imaging that these whackjobby fringe types are not a factor in Republican politics, that they might lionize Ann Coulter, but the GOP does not in fact listen to the whackjobbiness in any serious way. But the violent speech gives one pause.
It isn’t just the hanging of Obama in effigy that we’re talking about here, an act evidently perpetrated a few times among the GOP fringe last fall. It isn’t just the persistence in GOP whack jobs believing Obama is a communist, that he is a Muslim, that he is not a citizen, etc. All that is whackjobby enough, but the threats of violence on perhaps the most popular place for Republicans to vent is becoming disturbing. That place is Free Republic, and this weekend the founder of Free Republic had to go online and warn his people about how they used the threatening language against Obama. According to a report on DailyKos, here’s Jim Robinson, founder of Free Republic:
Unfortunately, we are saddled with a communist sympathizer in the White House. I don’t know whether or not he’s an actual card carrying commie, but he’s definitely an America-hating, anti-capitalist Marxist leftist who thinks communism is the way to go. Now I remember when America used to fight against communism. It wasn’t that long ago. Many of us on FR are veterans of wars against communism and some of us believe that American citizens who are communists are the enemy within, ie, the domestic enemy we’ve sworn to defend against. American citizen? hmmmm… that may be a loophole for Obama.
At any rate, the oath is to defend our constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I can imagine that this places an enormous strain on our Secret Service agents. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that Obama is an enemy of the constitution. So should the SS defend the constitution or defend the anti-constitution commie?
So now comes the problem. If you feel it’s your duty to call Obama a traitor and use salty language in your proposed resolution, ie, suggest the commie be keelhauled, walked off the plank, run up the yardarm, tarred and feathered and run out of Dodge, etc, etc, etc, you may be facing a visit from your friendly Secret Service. And even though your visiting agent may agree politically, and may take his oath to the constitution seriously, he’s still sworn to protect the officeholder and it’s his duty to take all threats seriously. And that may include serving me with a subpoena to turn over your IP address. Now I’m duty bound to protect your privacy to the best of my ability, but I cannot defend against stupidity.
Best advice I can give is to keep it to yourself. Don’t post anything that may embarrass you later, or end you up in the slammer.
Keep your powder dry.
For those of you not on the NRA bandwagon, “keep your powder dry” means that you should make sure those firearms work well, just in case you have to use them. Some might characterize the above as Jim Robinson warning his users not to bandy about violent threats against Barack Obama, but I’m thinking he’s warning these folks that they might be caught. That’s not all that subtle a distinction, really. It isn’t that he thinks people should believe in something other than violence, but that he doesn’t want to be in the way when the Secret Service comes.
Hey, this could be an internet thing. the folks at DailyKos just love to take off on the violent tendencies of the right wing whack jobs over at Free Republic. They do it here and here in addition to the link from above. And, no, I do not want to minimize the violent threats as just “salty talk,” as Jim Robinson does, but I’m thinking this tit for tat, back and forth about violent imagery on web sites isn’t constructive unless we show how it applies to a real election. To that end, the plight of Senator Arlen Specter, here in the land of God, guns and bitterness, might show how the extremists here represent a shift in the GOP.
Arlen Specter has been a stalwart member of the GOP in the Senate for a long time. Some would say he is a moderate, and some would say he is the last moderate Republican out there. They’d say he is an endangered species, and one that may soon become extinct. Hey, Spector was challenged in the 2004 primary by Pat Toomey, of the extremist Club for Growth, and he won by 2% in that race, and Toomey is thinking of another challenge to Specter. The notion among Republicans is that Specter’s support of Barack Obama’s stimulus plan makes Specter a traitor to the God, guns and bitterness crowd here in PA, and that puts Arlen Specter in some deep trouble. Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer goes so far as to advise Specter that he may as well just become a Democrat, if he is to succeed in being elected to another term.
It was not that ugly language of the whack jobs on Free Republic that got me thinking this weekend, not really. It wasn’t that they seemed to follow the lead of Limbaugh and Coulter rather than the saner heads purporting to lead the Republican Party (though I’ll admit it seems impossible to find Republican leaders who do not bow down to Limbaugh). I began thinking this weekend about Specter. I attended a party Saturday where there were several big Specter donors in the crowd, but even they seemed to have moved towards Obama, wondering perhaps whether Specter can weather the storm among his own Republicans here in PA. Polman of the Inquirer yesterday put the issue starkly:
Like magic, the target on your backside would disappear. Pennsylvania’s increasingly conservative Republican electorate is gunning for you – thanks to your support for the Obama-Democratic stimulus plan, your other perceived heresies, and for any heresies yet to come (including your potential support for a hot-button bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize). They want to take you down in an expensive primary next spring, and perhaps Toomey will be their instrument.
You did beat him in a primary in 2004, by a mere two points, but I doubt that would happen again, if only because so many moderate Pennsylvanians in recent years have left the GOP and signed up with the Democrats. Hundreds of thousands have switched teams. Those were your people; in 2010, they won’t be eligible to participate in the primary and help you survive another blood feud.
You spoke recently about that dilemma, saying, “I’m going to deal with it as best I can. I’m trying to get people to change back and be Republicans.” Face it, senator, they’re not changing back. Not as long as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are cracking the whip; not as long as their most visible strategic guru is Newt Gingrich, the polarizer who was forced out of power more than 10 years ago.
Senator, most of the remaining Pennsylvania primary voters lean strongly rightward. Last month, 66 percent of statewide Republicans told a pollster that they want you gone. They think of you as “Benedict Arlen,” and one top conservative group, mindful of your vote on the economic-stimulus package, dubbed it “the ultimate act of treason” and named you “Comrade of the Month” – a nickname that demonstrates that Red-baiting has survived the fall of the Soviet Union.
So perhaps you should consider whether it’s worthwhile to drain your campaign coffers and put up with this grief. The Republicans seem determined to reduce themselves to a state of powerless purity, so, fine – let them nominate a conservative Senate candidate who would get waxed statewide. And you’d do the waxing, buoyed by the fact that Democrats in Pennsylvania now outnumber Republicans by 1.23 million, more than double the margin of 2004, when you last ran.
Now I do not expect Arlen Specter to abandon the Republican Party. It is in his blood. And I’ll not mourn much if Specter loses a primary fight to Pat Toomey, for that will surely ensure that whoever the Democrats nominate here in PA for the Senate will win. I am confident that the God, guns and bitterness segment of the PA electorate, and of the American electorate as a whole, are marginalizing themsleves, led by Limbaugh and Hannity and Coulter and a whole slew of rabid extremists. No, I’ll not mourn Arlen Specter much. But I wonder, as I think we all do, when the Republican Party begins to understand that extremism is not the cup of tea from which the American electorate wishes to sip. There are few moderates left in the GOP, and they will need those moderates if they have hopes of ever righting their skewed ship. It will be all the more difficult for the Republican Party if they chase away every moderate still loyal before they get that message.
Meanwhile, the whack job element still screeches. They believe in the conspiracy theories, toss around words like “socialist” and “communist,” veil their threats against Obama with little art, and are egged on by FauxNews, Limbaugh and the rest of the “let America fail” set. It is becoming increasingly clear that the ship they are steering onto the rocks is not the American ship with Obama at the tiller, but the GOP ship, with no clear captain to take the blame for the pending disaster.