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Mike Signer

Mike Signer

Posted: March 28, 2010 02:49 PM

Stop the Violence: Taking on Today's Demagogues

What's Your Reaction:

After a week of bricks through windows, spitting and racial epithets at lawmakers, and acts of vandalism, political violence continued to dominate the news Sunday morning political shows, with Doris Kearns Goodwin arguing on Meet the Press that "the tone of recent times really is troubling."

Meanwhile, a new post by Alabama Tea Partyer Mike Vandeboegh and leader of the "Sipsey Street Irregulars" is chilling:

This piddling vandalism, these four incidents of broken windows, has scared them to the core. They denounce it because they want to see no more of it.

Whether the windows continue breaking is not up to me. But I think I can safely say we got their attention. And that makes the risk of the exercise worth it to me. Certainly it was a success. We merely pinged them and they screamed bloody murder.

So what's the next step after "merely pinging"?

Amid all of this, we should look to the lessons of America's past victims over demagogues. As I argue in a new Daily Beast post:

In these charged, uncertain times, we'd do well to recall the lessons of the post-Depression 1930s. This was when the Louisiana Senator and Governor Huey Long prowled the national stage, when the charismatic Detroit "radio priest" Father Coughlin assailed FDR's "communist" methods in favor of religiously-driven economic populism, and when the anti-Semitic reverend Gerald L.K. Smith agitated audiences across the country.

America ultimately emerged stronger than we went in. We directly confronted demagogues like Long, educated ourselves about our constitutional traditions and lawfulness, and tailored reform around action, rather than rhetoric.

President Obama isn't exactly FDR, and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin certainly aren't Huey Long and Father Coughlin, but the 1930s still hold powerful lessons for our leaders today, grappling with levels of political violence and turbulence unseen for decades. Check out the piece for more.

 

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