When conservatives questioned Barack Obama's character to be president based on his association with Pentagon bomber Bill Ayers and a twenty year membership in Rev. Wright's church of liberation theology, it was frowned upon by the Mainstream Media. "This is an attempt to paint Obama guilty by association!" the Left screamed. Nevermind these weren't casual encounters. Barack Obama made a conscious decision to maintain relationships with these individuals over several years. He called Rev. Wright his spiritual mentor. He launched his political career from Bill Ayers living room. In questioning Obama, we were judging him by the company he kept, the inner circle of those who influenced his thinking. This is hardly guilt by association.
Now we see the Left was only projecting. Accusing us of guilt by association turns out to be their new modus of operandi. Actually, it's even worse. What we are now witnessing is guilt without association. How else do you explain the invisible dots Democrats keep trying to connect by repeatedly mentioning domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh in the same breath with the Tea Party?
What exactly do Timothy McVeigh and conservative demonstrators have in common? Absolutely nothing. There wasn't even a Tea Party movement fifteen years ago. Sure, they both distrust the government. But so what? According to a recent Pew research poll, 80% of Americans distrust the government, the highest level ever recorded. If we are to believe the hyperbole of the Left, then 80% of the country is a potential domestic terrorist. Of course, given the growth of the public sector over the past decade, it's likely that the other 20% work for the government anyway, so perhaps it's closer to 100% distrust.
Historically, guilt by association attempted to connect two unrelated individuals without evidence that they knew each other or shared the same values. During the dark days of McCarthyism, if anyone who belonged to a group or club confessed they were a Communist, then everyone who ever belonged to that group or could be placed at an event with any of those members must also be a Communist.
Democrats have basically made the same absurd leap of logic with the Tea Party. Already they have tried unsuccessfully to connect anyone who takes part in the movement with fringe racists. Last week, threatened by the increased popularity of the Tea Parties going mainstream, Democrat leaders including former president Bill Clinton upped the ante and are now comparing the Tea Party protesters to Timothy McVeigh, the convicted Oklahoma City bomber.
This is the worst of mischaracterization and guilt by association, and it's being practiced by the Left, not the Right. It's an attempt to intimidate and demonize law-abiding citizens who disapprove of runaway government spending and never-ending bureaucracy into silence. It's an attempt to discourage everyday Americans dissatisfied with the Obama administration's policies to join the Tea Party movement. It's an attempt not to win the debate, but to silence the debate.
Is it working? Let's hope not. A strong democracy requires a marketplace of ideas, not marching orders or conformity. Forced agreement with the party line is what regimes practice, not the United States of America. You can imagine the outrage if Republicans had tried the same thing when they controlled Congress. You can imagine the outrage if President Bush had called anti-war protesters like Cindy Sheehan "potential terrorists" or sent Dick Cheney out to question whether any Democrats might be spurred to violence due to the talk of "truthers" claiming 9/11 was an inside job.
Then again, conservatives are more tolerant of dissent than progressives. Conservatives are more willing to debate the merits of an idea, to draw a distinction between freedom and tyranny, between collectivism and individual liberty. In fact, it is by defining these arguments that the conservative feels they will win the debate and establish clarity, while the Left can't defeat the idea alone. An argument based on history and/or facts is never sufficient. They have to paint the conservative in a negative light. The conservative must be immoral, racist, harmful, backwards, against the poor, against women, or any number of adjectives they can come up with. This is cheap demagoguery.
Contrast this with how the Left and Mainstream Media treat radical Islam. They are afraid of ruffling any feathers. They go out of their way not to call the violent acts that some members practice acts of terrorism or to connect, for instance, the shooting by Major Nadal Hasan at Fort Hood with fundamental Islam when there were more red flags than a North Korean parade. Instead, the Left asks how they can be more tolerant of Islam. "What did we do to you to cause this reaction?" they want to know. Free people can't even draw a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed without receiving death threats or inciting riots from mainstream Muslims.
Does the Left condemn these acts of intimidation as hate speech? No, they appease it. They ask Americans to be more accommodating and sensitive, all the while unwilling to accommodate nonviolent conservative citizens with real grievances against the government. Sure, no arrests have been made at Tea Party events. But one of these vocal, flag-waving, middle class Americans clinging to their religion could be the next Timothy McVeigh.
Or Bill Ayers. In which case, Democrats should have no problem.