The GOP's Violence Problem

October 20, 2009 3:41 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Unfortunately, the GOP doesn't seem to realize that violent words can have consequences.

In an interview out this morning, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) joked that he "hunt[s] liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it's a waste of good ammunition."  When asked about the remarks, a spokesman for Harper was unapologetic.  "It's supposed to be fun...It's having a good time," he said.   

Harper may have been making a "joke," but there's nothing funny about the GOP's increasing taste for violence.  Over the last several months, Republican lawmakers, commentators, candidates, and activists have turned to violent rhetoric with alarming frequency.  Media Matters Action has compiled some examples below:

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would "bludgeon" blue dogs "to death" to get their votes for health care reform. 
  • After a man brought an assault rifle to an Obama event, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said people "should" bring guns to public meetings. 
  • Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) joked about Democratic members who "almost got lynched" at town hall meetings.  
  • At an anti-health care reform event, protestors hung an effigy of Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) 
  • Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's (R-TX) former press secretary wrote a column favorably comparing the Tea Parties to "Project Mayhem" -- a fictional terrorist organization in the movie Fight Club that blew up banks.  
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann said she wanted the American people "armed and dangerous" to fight cap-and-trade legislation. 

This is an incomplete list, to be sure.  Even before factoring in the paranoid rantings of Glenn Beck, or the hateful rhetoric of far-right activists like Randall Terry, it's clear that the "mainstream" conservative movement has a violence problem.  Unfortunately, the GOP doesn't seem to realize that violent words can have consequences.

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