JONATHAN CHAIT JUNE 18, 2010
There's a bit of a game in politics of seizing upon extreme statements by somebody in politics, or punditry, to whip up outrage among your own partisans. I'm generally skeptical of that game -- it's a big country, and crazy-sounding thought will be uttered from time to time. But Sharron Angle's Senate candidacy strikes me as a genuine sea-change of sorts. Here is a major party nominee for Senate, with a real chance to win, who is encouraging armed overthrow of the government.
Earlier this year, Angle said:
In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it's good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years," Angle said in January in an interview with conservative talk show host Lars Larson. "I hope that's not where we're going. But, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies."
Per Greg Sargent, Angle was asked about that statement and simply changed the subject:
I can't believe people are even asking that," Angle said in the brief interview. "I'm very much a proponent of the Second Amendment and the Constitution. But what we have to focus on here is a movement, a movement that's about retiring Harry Reid" by voting him out of office
There's been a lot of wild, loose rhetoric on the right since Obama took office -- wilder and more mainstream than the equivalent on the left under George W. Bush -- but Angle is really taking things dangerously far. The protection of the law is not enough to ensure the survival of a democracy. Democracies rely upon certain social and cultural norms in order to survive. An important one is a basic respect for the democratic process and a refusal to hint about the idea of actual armed rebellion. Angle did not quite advocate armed rebellion, but she did clearly egg it on it in a way that melds prediction with encouragement.
Angle's comments flow naturally from a right-wing ideology that regards taxation as theft and many commonly-accepted practices of government as the equivalent to Bolshevik expropriation of wealth, or at least unconstitutional. The alarming thing is not so much what Angle said but how relatively little a ripple it has made. It's just one more gaffe, something that has not prevented her from being embraced by Senate Republicans. It is not even considered sufficiently outrageous to force her to disavow the clear implication of what she said. It really seems like a dangerous milestone is the darkening mood of the American right.