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Representatives of the Party of No and its supporters responded in one of two ways immediately after the passage of the Senate bill on Mondayhealth care reform law – with violent rhetorical excess, or with real violence. The first characterized the GOPers in congress who competed to outdo each other’s demagogic excesses in their efforts to portray this bill as an  “outrage” that threatens democracy. Their tantrums arguably helped whip up the second, more violent response on the part of their out-of-control Tea Party dupes. The result? Violence and threats of violence against Democrats who had refused to be intimidated by months of implied threat.

The latest beneficiary of the Republican efforts to fan the Tea Party frenzy is Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-3rd). A coffin that had earlier figured in a Tea Party protest was left on the lawn of Carnahan’s residence Tuesday night. Even KMOV reporter Matt Sczesny, who has seemed at times perhaps a little too friendly to the Tea Partiers to be considered objective (they certainly appreciate his coverage, at any rate), was moved to observe:

… the police were not involved, since it doesn’t appear there was any direct threat and the coffin was empty. However, one can only imagine what may be implied by leaving a coffin on a front lawn.  We all know that emotions have been running high over the health care reform debate, but this has to make you wonder where this debate is going.

Sczesny is correct – even though the Tea Party is claiming that they have been “smeared” by Carnahan and the coffin was simply part of a prayer vigil in which it symbolized the death of freedom. Viewed in the context of the the recent threats of violence, Carnahan, along with all sane Americans, should be concerned about where the delusional hysteria and bullyboy tactics of this group may take us.

The individuals, however, who ought to be most concerned are our putative Republican leaders who have been willing to play on the emotions of the looney tunes brigade for their own political purposes. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo observes about the recent spate of violence:

… this didn’t come from nowhere and it can’t be pawned off on a few cranks. Everything that’s happened over the last five days has grown from a pattern of incitement going back almost a year — wildly hyperbolic statements, coded appeals to menacing behavior, flippant jokes about bringing firearms to political events and all the rest.

We need to contact our Republican congressional representatives and demand that they take responsibility for inciting fear and anger among their more unstable constituents, and for implicitly indicating that violence might be justified whenever individuals fail to prevail politically. Not that they’ll ever own up to their role – already they are fishing around for ways to blame the victims – but they ought to hear that a few of us at least know just what they have been doing – and that we will do our best to make sure that that knowledge becomes a commonplace.

Addenda:  Ezra Klein gets it right while keeping a calm, civil tongue in his head.