Though nobody can condone the jeers, name-calling, and intolerant language coming from McCain/Palin rallies, I think the characterization of them as “violent mobs” is overblown. This venting of raw emotion was predictable and, while distasteful, is not the threat to the peace that some are making it out to be.
It could change, of course. If Obama departs from his cool demeanor and actually acts threatened by the rhetoric; if McCain continues to waffle and stoke the anger; if we hear “Drill, Baby, Drill” metastisize into “Kill, Baby,Kill” then we’ve crossed the line from (un)civil discourse into mob mentality. Then there will be real danger.
But there’s really no percentage in saying that line has been crossed when it hasn’t. I don’t want to claim false equivalencies, but I’ve called Bush a war criminal and called for his impeachment. But my own rabble-rousing is mostly issues-based and a result of his actions. I don’t hate him because he’s Republican, or Texan, or a snide little shit who’s deeply unserious about the dignity of the Presidency. It’s his war, his giveaways of our money to the ultra-rich, his self-dealing, and his lies that I detest. This is palpably different than what conservatives fear about Obama: they fear his socialism, his naïevete, his liberalism, his radicalism, and (basically) that he’s going to turn the country over to the enemies who attacked us on 9/11, with whom he is said to be in alliance. That’s not policy, that’s demagoguery, and it is so ungrounded in reality that I can only assume that a lot of it is an elaborate euphemism for “black.”
The mindless character assault on Obama can and should be decried on its own merits, without fearmongering that it contains the risk of something worse. This isn’t 1968 or 1924. We won’t have cities burning this time around, one way or another. The ugliness we see is not new; it’s always been there, it’s just now out in sunlight, and exposing it for what it is is a good thing. We don’t need to exaggerate its danger.