Following the murder of two Las Vegas cops and a “good guy with a gun,” it’s time to take a long look at those who are fomenting anti-government hate. The shooters, Jerad and Amanda Miller, had apparently been inspired by Cliven Bundy, as well as various militias and “patriot” groups. They believed the police officers to be Nazis and talked of a revolution against our government.
Far from being alone, the Millers are part of a growing segment of our population who have a perverse understanding of our Constitution, and who consider our government illegitimate. Since the election of President Obama, the non-partisan Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has noted a significant rise in such hate groups. A spokesman said that the SPLC’s Hatewatch had listed 139 hate groups in 2008, but over the last 5 years, the number has grown to more than a thousand.
Interestingly, these groups only seem to thrive during Democratic administrations.
The growth of hate groups is almost certainly the result of the constant anti-government, anti-Democrat hatred being spewed by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and many others. It’s even worse these days with the impact of social media and the Tea Party. Even so-called “traditional” Republicans and “Christian” churches must be held responsible for their words. These people have questioned the legitimacy of a president twice elected with large majorities. Instead of respecting the results of the elections, they have implied that there was widespread voter fraud. They have demonized gays, lesbians, Latinos, African-Americans, the unemployed and the poor.
They have called Obama the “Imperial President” simply for acting on his campaign promises. They called him a Nazi, a Socialist and a Communist (it’s clear they don’t understand the definitions of any of those terms) for signing into law a version of Romneycare. They have celebrated mockumentaries created by James O’Keefe that purported to show progressive groups participating in illicit activities. They have invented conspiracies and scandals over events similar to those they supported or ignored during Republican administrations. They rant about the growth of government even though cutbacks at every level of government have acted as an anchor on our economy since the start of the Great Recession.
The hatemongers have generated such a large following that it now threatens to explode in a new wave of violence.
Rather than being outliers such as Timothy McVeigh, the hate-spewing extremists have taken over one of our two dominant political parties. The haters have members of Congress, presidential candidates, militias led by retired peace officers, Tea Party groups calling for Second Amendment remedies, a cable “news” network making up lies and supporting seditionists, churches screaming hate-filled tirades at minorities, and bullies openly carrying AK-47s, AR-15s and shotguns into restaurants and large retail stores.
Thankfully, the SPLC has finally convinced the Justice Department to reinstate its domestic terrorism unit that was disbanded following 9/11. After all, terrorism is no less lethal if it comes from within. In many ways, domestic terrorism is more destructive than that imposed on us by foreign groups. It makes us distrust and fear each other. Our political system was founded on the debate of ideas; of the party in power being challenged by the loyal opposition. But if we don’t de-escalate the rhetoric that inspires people like the Millers, this isn’t going to end well.