This afternoon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) gave a speech in which he quoted Richard Hofstadter’s 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” and accused ObamaCare opponents of inciting “vindictive passions”:
“Far from appealing to the better angels of our nature, too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear. History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds, broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists.” (Emphasis added.)
A full text of Sen. Whitehouse’s remarks is not yet available, but at this moment, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is rebutting the Democrat’s accusations. And, by the way, that Senate tail-gunner was right about one thing: There were indeed Soviet agents in the State Department.
UPDATE: More from the Whitehouse speech, referring to Hofstadter’s “paranoid style” thesis:
“Vindictive passions often arise, [Hofstadter] points out, when an aggrieved minority believes that America has been taken away from them their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. Does that sound familiar . . . in this health debate? . . . [Hofstadter] wrote of the dangers of an aggrieved right-wing minority with the power to create what he called a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.”
It’s interesting — but probably no accident — that the first Republican to respond to Whitehouse’s provocative remarks was Kyl of Arizona. In 1964, Hofstadter’s essay was taken as an analysis of the conservative supporters of another Arizona Republican, Barry Goldwater.
By the way, these quotes are taken from an audio rush transcript of Sen. Whitehouse’s speech, the official text of which has not yet been published.
UPDATE II: More from the transcript of the Whitehouse speech:
“[Republicans have engaged in] a campaign of falsehood about death panels and cuts to Medicare benefits and benefits for illegal aliens and bureaucrats to be parachuted in between you and your doctor. Our colleagues terrify the public with this parade of imagined horrors. They whip up concerns and anxiety about socialized medicine and careening deficits and then they tell use the public is concerned about the bill.”
UPDATE III: Accusing the bill’s opponents of inflaming “unprecedented passions,” Whitehouse blamed the GOP for the extension of the health-care debate into the Christmas holiday:
“We see it in bad behavior. We see it in the long hours of reading by the clerks our Republican colleagues have forced. We see it in Christmases and holidays ruined by the Republicans for our loyal and professional Senate employees. It’s fine for me. It’s fine for the president. We signed up for the his job, but why ruin it for all the employees condemned by the Republicans to be here?”
UPDATE IV: If you voted Republican, here is how Sen. Whitehouse describes you:
“Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our young president. They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The ‘birthers,’ the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militias and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Obama should exist.”
OK, so much for all those Aryan militia fanatics who vote Republican, what does Sen. Whitehouse think of the Senators those voters elected?
“Our colleagues are behaving in this way – unprecedented, malignant and vindictive – because they are desperate to avoid that day of judgment, frantic and desperate now and willing to strange and unprecedented things, willing to do anything, even throw our troops at war in the way of that day of reckoning. If they can cause this bill to fail, the truth will never stand up as a living reproach to the lies that have been told. . . . But when the bill passes and this program actually comes to life . . . there will come a day of judgment, and our Republican friends know that. That, Mr. President, is why they are terrified.”
There you have it, then: Nazis and militia kooks elect lying Republican senators who ruin Christmas and who oppose the bill only because they want to “break” the president and are terrified that if the bill passes, it will expose how they’ve engaged in fear-mongering propaganda.
Amazing that in his 1,700 word speech, Sen. Whitehouse didn’t find time to accuse his opponents of being “divisive” and “polarizing.”
UPDATE V: Excerpts of Sen. Jon Kyle’s response.