Rand Paul’s Senate campaign received a kick in the pants last night, when a group of male supporters stomped on a female activist from MoveOn.org. Paul’s campaign has denounced the violence, sure; but his past remarks, and the Tea Party zeitgeist as a whole, helped spark it.
Last night, ahead of Paul’s debate with Democratic rival Jack Conway, MoveOn activist Lauren Valle attempted to give Paul an “employee of the year” award from MoveOn group RepubliCorp, “a fake business MoveOn created to symbolize what it says is the merger of the GOP and business interests controlling political speech.”
Paul’s supporters were not amused, shoved her to the ground and then one of them stepped on Valle’s neck and head. Though the activist was able to speak with the press, she did later go to the hospital and has filed a police report.
The Rand Paul campaign sent out a statement (sort of) condemning the incident, of course, and insisted, “Violence of any kind has no place in our civil discourse and we urge supporters on all sides to be civil to one another as tensions rise heading toward this very important election.” Funny, that’s not what Paul said.
[Some of Paul's greatest gun-related hits]
Rand Paul has a history of calling for arms. Or, at least, alluding to it. In his post-primary speech, Paul claimed he and his supporters would “take our government back.” At another rally, Paul joked that though he didn’t have a gun, he was sure his base had his back: “I’m not armed today, but I feel pretty safe. I feel like i’ve got a private security detail out there.”
Paul’s most extreme comments were at a local Second Amendment rally, where, flanked by machine gun-toting guards and dressed in militia garb, the Republican declared, “Some citizens are holding out hope that the upcoming elections will better things. We’ll wait and see. Lots of us believe that maybe that’s an unreliable considering that the Fabian progressive socialists have been chipping at our foundations for well over 100 years. Regardless, the founders made sure we had Plan B: the Second Amendment.” Paul, however, later claimed not to have seen the guns or called for violence.
While the candidate may not have said “beat down the left,” his rhetoric definitely fueled militant anger. And he’s not alone: scores of Tea Party candidates, including Sharron Angle and, most recently, Texas Congressional candidate Stephen Broden, have hinted at violent revolution against “treasonous” enemies. “The option is on the table. I don’t think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms,” Broden told a local radio station when asked about violent overthrow of the government. He then added that it’s not a “first option.”
Americans feel that they’re out of options, however, and the violent atmosphere of this election presents a chicken or the egg scenario: did the candidates start the figurative revolt, or are they simply tapping into an energy that was there before, dormant and ready to erupt? In the end, though, that question remains irrelevant, because the violent “chicken” has hatched, and candidates like Rand Paul were the incubator.
At the aforementioned militia rally, Paul warned supporters, “After a long and costly Civil War that is imminent and sure to be forced upon us, we are taking note of those who are responsible for the treason, and eventually they will be held accountable.” Then, taking aim at a trusty conservative enemy, the media, Paul said, “I advise the press to start getting it right from this moment on and stop aiding and abetting UnAmerican activity.” In the case of the stomping supporters, the press has nothing to do with it: responsibility for this attack falls squarely on Paul’s head.