As Democrats, after a Sunday rally on the Capitol grounds, marched to the House hand-in-hand to vote health care reform, Tea Partiers reportedly shouted the "n-word" at John Lewis and another black congressman. A third was allegedly spat upon. And Barney Frank was called a nasty name.
Tea Partiers deny it all. And neither audio nor video of this alleged incident has been produced, though TV cameras and voice recorders were everywhere on the Hill.
Other Democrats say their offices were vandalized and they've been threatened. A few received, and eagerly played for cable TV, obscene phone calls they got.
If true, this is crude and inexcusable behavior. And any threat should be investigated. But Democrats are also exploiting these real, imaginary or hoked-up slurs to portray themselves as political martyrs and to smear opponents as racists and bigots.
This is the politics of desperation.
Majority Whip James Clyburn accuses Republicans of "aiding and abetting ... terrorism." New York Times columnist Frank Rich compared the Tea Party treatment of Democrats to Nazi treatment of the Jews during Kristallnacht:
"How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn't recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht."
Kristallnacht, "Crystal Night," the "Night of Broken Glass," was the worst pogrom in Germany since the Middle Ages. Synagogues were torched and hundreds of businesses smashed. Shattered glass covered the streets. Women were assaulted and men beaten and murdered. After that terrible night, half the Jews remaining in Germany fled.
To compare a brick tossed through the window of a congressional office and two shouted slurs to Kristallnacht suggests a growing paranoia on the left about the populist right.
Not since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made "some Americans run off the rails," said Rich, have we seen anything like this.
Was Rich awake in 1964? Because it wasn't the right that went off the rails. The really big riot in 1964 was in Harlem, lasting five days, with 500 injured and as many arrested. The Watts riot in 1965, Detroit and Newark in 1967, Washington, D.C., and 100 other cities in 1968, all bringing troops into American cities, were not the work of George Wallace populists or Barry Goldwater conservatives. They were the work of folks who went "all the way with LBJ."
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