Hateful protests

This weekend was emotionally charged, politically speaking… As I write this, the House of Representatives is concluding its debate on the controversial healthcare reform, and will presumably complete their vote this evening, in fact.

That’s not what I’m writing about, however. I’m writing about some of the hateful protests that have occurred in Washington, D.C. this weekend, and my righteous satisfaction at how political leaders have responded.

Saturday, a handful of African American legislators from the Democratic party were accosted by protesters shouting racial epithets as they walked past. An openly gay Democratic member of Congress was similarly mocked by homophobic slurs. These protesters are going beyond political disagreements and getting into nasty, hateful, personal attacks on legislators.

Fortunately, some key Republican leaders are joining the growing chorus of voices denouncing these tactics.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, who vehemently opposes the healthcare reform being debated in Congress, stepped up and called the hateful speech “reprehensible” on NBC’s Meet the Press. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia, shared a similar sentiment on ABC’s This Week. “Nobody condones that at all. … There were 30,000 people here in Washington yesterday. And, yes, there were some very awful things said.” And Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican from Indiana, called the slurs “contemptible” on CNN’s State of the Union. “I denounce it in the strongest terms.”

Even the president of one of the groups that sponsored Saturday’s protest, Andrew Langer, condemned the hateful speech in a statement on Sunday. “The Institute for Liberty roundly condemns the isolated incidents of intolerance that occurred … As a core value, the Tea Party movement believes in the precept upon which our independence was declared and this nation was founded: that all men are created equal.”

I’m glad to hear such clear denouncement of hateful speech, even by those top conservative leaders who very passionately disagree with the bill. There are a lot of strong feelings on both sides of the debate, but there’s no place in political discourse for personal assaults on individual lawmakers.

We all know there’s no such thing as calm debate on a subject this charged… But let’s at least keep the rhetoric and passion focused on the bill, not the people involved.

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