The unintended consequences of mob harassment

THE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF MOB HARASSMENT…. Following up on the earlier item about right-wing fanatics trying to shut down discussions over health care with harassment and disruptions, the Politico‘s Jonathan Martin raises a compelling point.

Yes, there is now much energy on the right. But much like those angry crowds that populated McCain and Palin rallies last fall (recall “he’s an Arab”), there is danger in such raw passion.

See, as one Dem points out, the much-watched Lloyd Doggett video today. Go to about a the 2:00 minute mark and you’ll find a guy carrying a kid on his shoulders and hoisting a sign with the Nazi “SS” lettering.

Recall also the hanging in effigy of another Dem congressman last week at an anti-health care rally.

These are the sort of excessive displays that breed a backlash.

It’s probably the one angle the corporate interests and their lobbyists haven’t considered: the unintended consequences of rallying confused right-wing activists to shout down policymakers who’ll improve their health care coverage. Once you wind up the fanatics and point them in the direction of a town-hall meeting, you never really know what they’re going to say, do, wear, or hold. In at least one case at the Doggett event, there really was a sign with Nazi “SS” lettering.

This is not to say all opponents of reform are radical extremists. The point, though, is that conservatives run a risk of convincing the American mainstream that the only people worked up in opposition to health care reform are nutjobs.

Indeed, the NYT noted this morning, “Doggett said that he had tried his best to answer questions, but that the demonstrators expressed opposition not only to the health care plan but also to all government programs, including Medicare and Social Security.”

Obviously, those concerned about the reform proposals go beyond fringe, unhinged activists. But if and when the anti-reform campaign becomes synonymous with right-wing lunatics, organized by insurance companies, it becomes far easier for the political mainstream to dismiss their legitimacy, while regular Americans think, “Well, I don’t want to be on their side.”