It's little comfort to know that it's all happened before:
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), currently the longest serving member of the House of Representatives, has been on the receiving end of some rowdy town hall meetings recently. People in attendance have displayed signs comparing President Obama to Hitler and one man even yelled at Dingell, saying “your healthcare plan is going to take healthcare away from my son and kill him!” When Dingell said it wouldn’t, the man repeatedly shouted “liar!” When asked last night on MSNBC about the angry mobs he has encountered, Dingell said they remind him of the days when he voted for civil rights in the 1960s:
DINGELL: Well, the last time I had to confront something like this was when I voted for the civil rights bill and my opponent voted against it. At that time, we had a lot of Ku Klux Klan folks and white supremacists and folks in white sheets and other things running around causing trouble.
Hunter at Daily Kos noted the same thing:
Hunter's post is definitely worth the read. It makes some sense of the insensible.
It seems at first a bizarre thought, a mere freeform hiccup of the brain, but between a half-dozen different commentators I am apparently already far from the first to have it: it seems to me like the last time we saw public discourse be as intentionally devolved as it is today was during, of all things, American desegregation.
That was the last time you had deeply conservative southern governors and states yelling about secession because the federal government was forcing things on them that they couldn't tolerate, and making belligerent anti-federalism statements over the slightest little thing.
That was the last time America so prominently saw, on television, shouting white mobs and the threats against lawmakers, all explicitly intended not at debate, but as efforts of pure intimidation in order to stop the debate from ever taking place.
That was when you had phalanxes of very dumb but very loud people weeping in front of the cameras that the fabric of America was being destroyed, though they couldn't begin to actually tell you why or how, only that it involved black people rising above their place in the world and the subsequent corruption of their government.
That was when you had men with fervent political beliefs walking into "too-liberal" churches and murdering in cold blood those who they disagreed with.
If Hunter and Dingell are right, things are going to get much worse before they get any better. We'll see rioting whites, bombings, shootings, and all manner of people trying to win by violence what they can't win politically. The only cold comfort we can take is that America defeated them before. We can do it again.