Even after nearly twenty years of living in the Washington, D.C. area and studying its various inhabitants – politicians, lobbyists, journalists, and bureaucrats – there are still times when it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell what is theatre and what is real. Of course, it is never purely one or the other, but a mixture that has to be weighed to see whether it is more of one or the other.
This week was no exception. Those who debarked their morning commuter train on September 9 and walked into Union Station were greeted by phalanxes of police – and not just the typical, garden variety Amtrak cops, but the ones in khakis with their pistols strapped low on their thighs, positioned for quick action. Exiting the building, commuters had to pick their way through the bomb-sniffing dogs, their handlers, and roughly 10 police vehicles that filled up the brick-paved plaza flanking the replica of the Liberty Bell and the Columbus Monument.
It was definitely a show of force, but only a small foretaste of what was yet to come.
Before sundown the Capitol Police had turned the area surrounding Capitol Hill into a virtual fortress. Maryland Avenue, which runs from the American Indian Museum past the Botanical Gardens to a traffic circle devoted to a statute of James Garfield, was barricaded with concrete barriers. This was hardly necessary since there were enough police and emergency vehicles, not to mention a number of Army trucks, crammed into First Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue to preclude any traffic coming through. Police – not just the occasional foot patrol, but small groups of law-enforcement officers – were on every corner, in addition to those cruising around on bicycles. The only thing missing were the mounted police and armored personnel carriers. There was, however, the next best thing: SWAT-team looking guys with automatic weapons held firmly in both hands.
Everything was on hand in preparation for an assault. But by whom?
Were they mobilizing for an attack by jihadists bent on acts of terrorism? No, the State Department has decreed that the bad old days of the Bush Administration’s preoccupation with the Axis of Evil and the War on Terror are over.
Then it came to me.
They are there to ensure that those evil right-wing terrorists who have been running amuck at TEA Parties and town halls all over the country don’t get the idea that they can weaken the grip of Pelosi and company by mounting a disruptive demonstration prior to, during, or after Obama’s health care reform address to Congress. Can’t allow those wicked conservatives to take a page out of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals! Can’t allow those wicked conservatives to behave like ACORN or the Black Panthers! It just wouldn’t do.
Washington, D.C., is under the thumb of the radical left, and it is going to stay that way. Or is it? This isn’t Iran. Sure, the police will put on a tough-guy show of force when ordered to – hey, it earns them good overtime pay – but it’s very doubtful that they are actually spoiling for a fight with their fellow citizens.
If the left – with its majorities in both the House and the Senate – has everything nailed down as solidly as “I’ve-got-the-votes” Pelosi claims, why all the frustration, anger, fear, and hysteria that we’re seeing? That much is not merely theatre. Those emotions are real and very hard to hide. You can see them in the eyes and body language and hear them in the tone of voice.
No. What we are seeing is something very real. And it certainly isn’t pretty.
Demagogues (or demigods, you can take your pick) know that to mobilize people, there must be an enemy that can be demonized. But the problem at the moment is that the evil right-wing terrorists from the hinterlands (conservatives being the only group to whom the term “terrorist” can be applied and still be politically correct) are on their way to Washington by the busload for Saturday’s national TEA Party. And, if the polls are accurate, it is looking more and more like there are more of these liberty-loving, right-wing terrorists than the radical liberals ensconced in the corridors of power here in Washington have the resources to deal with.
If you demonize and denounce as terrorists a majority of the voting public, it becomes very difficult to govern and harder still to get re-elected.
So, here’s to the freedom-loving Americans who are awakening to the threat of big government and whose growing numbers threaten the dominance of Washington’s power-mad elites.
Now those are the kind of terrorists we can live with.