For years, the Right in America has been ramping up the violent undertones in its rhetoric. Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement have encouraged their followers to think that their guns are all that stands in the way of a socialist coup (and any restriction on those guns will be the start of the coup). Now, the violence has become real and the Right has, with some exceptions, baulked. Will the Tea Party’s rhetoric be scuttled?
The Tea Party has thrived by creating paranoia among its followers about a socialist takeover and fomenting gun-obsessed wackos’ violent fantasies. Now, inevitably, one of them has acted on those fantasies. Thankfully, the ‘mainstream’ Tea Party has reacted with horror, and tried to disassociate themselves by lamely claiming they have never advocated violence.
There doesn’t appear to be any appetite within the Tea Pay leadership for actual violence. Either it has all been an act to recruit the rednecks or they know that their position is still too weak for violence to be effective, and would only lead to isolating them and uniting both the Republican and Democrat establishments against them.
But, having quickly shunned and delegitimised the violence their rhetoric had inspired, where does the extreme Right go now? Glenn Beck can’t keep crying and warning that Americans have to be ready to resist Obama’s revolution. Sarah Palin can’t continue pretending she knows one end of a rifle from the other and making guns central to her political persona.
Can the Tea Party survive without its militant undertones?
Or will this reactionary, proto-fascist movement collapse if its leaders back away from their violent rhetoric? Let’s hope so.