Cornyn, Sessions & Republicans Stoke Fear & Anger on Health Care

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Death threats. Nazi signs. Hanging a Congressman in effigy. Welcome to the Tea Party.

It's no secret — Republicans want health care to fail. Across the country, Republican leaders are encouraging their supporters to be afraid and be angry. Texas Senator John Cornyn straight-out said as much in The Hill:


“Fear, I would say, precedes anger, and I think there are a lot of people who tell me they are scared of what they see coming out of Washington in terms of spending and the debt and muscular federal intervention on everything from financial institutions to healthcare,” Cornyn said. “It’s almost like a part of the grieving process.” […]

“No one would have ever thought six months ago we would be where we are today. I see real opportunities for us,” Cornyn said at a meeting with reporters. “2010 did not look like it was going to be a particularly friendly year for us.”

Two right-wing Republican groups, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, are stoking the flames by encouraging their volunteers to act out in town halls:

  • Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
  • Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
  • Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has endorsed these strategies:

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the NRCC, has endorsed the strategy, telling the Politico the days of civil town halls are now “over.”

What are the consequences stoking such unbridled anger and hatred for health care? How do you make them afraid? What is it that Republicans are willing to do, exactly, to incite this fear and anger among there suporters?

Well, here's one example —

“Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate”Republican radio host, Rush Limbaugh: (Source)

A young man protests at the Austin health care rally. Photo courtesy of Paul Rhea.
And here's another one:

This health care issue Is D-Day for freedom in America…If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,” he said. Republican Senator Jim DeMint: (Source)

Effigy of a Democratic Congressman in Maryland (Source)

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The Democratic National Committee released this ad, highlighting the anarchy of the far-right:

The most important thing for Democrats to do, right now, is try to maintain a civil tone and document any protests at town halls.

FireDogLake is tracking town halls around the country — if there's going to be one near you, let them know, or check their list and see if there's one you can attend near where you live or happen to be traveling.

5:20pm Update: Here's some information about how others are getting involved:

Additionally, a Republican Congressman made a joke about lynching Democrats at the town halls.


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. All other points aside.
    It's completely disrespectful to the process to respond in the way the DNC video does. This is tantamount to telling those millions in Iran and around the world protesting, “Why are you shouting? You lost the election, Ahmadinejad won, we've had enough of the mob”. Optimally, a country's fate is not based on who wins or loses elections, that's why we have a Constitution and subsequent laws. It's poor form to say “losers weepers”.

    And again, all other arguments aside, please don't respond to this by saying “ohh ya, well it's wasn't very fair when X” or “X did it too and you didn't say Y at the time”.

    thank you.

    • What?
      Setting “all other points aside” is absurd.

      Do you think the DNC would have made this video if there weren't people demanding that President Obama wasn't born in America? Or if there weren't people holding up devil pictures and Nazi signs? Or if there weren't death threats to congressmen? Or if there weren't effigies made of elected officials?

      I also enjoy how you request, “nobody disagree with me or my poor argument” at the end of your comment. That takes some real cajones.

    • good grief
      Thousands of Iranians in the street is one thing.  Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets for immigration reform in America is one thing.

      A couple dozen angry extremists coordinated and bused in by astro-turfing, lobby funded organizations is a crock. There are some very angry, hateful people that are being used as a tool by Republicans and lobbyists to motivate their base.  That's it.

      It was stupid, irresponsible and childish when Code Pink was doing it to Republicans, and it's stupid, irresponsible and childish now.  Seriously – elementary school children have more decorum than these tools.  

  2. Really Mr. Martin…
    “Do you think the DNC would have made this video if there weren't people demanding that President Obama wasn't born in America? Or if there weren't people holding up devil pictures and Nazi signs? Or if there weren't death threats to congressmen? Or if there weren't effigies made of elected officials?”  

    Where was your outrage when all of the above actions (save Obama being born in America) were being perpetrated by the left against Republicans and President Bush?  Give me a break.  Your outrage is no different from the political hacks on the right that have the same condemnation when it happens to their side, and talks it up as a healthy democracy when it is your own side doing the bomb throwing.

    I do love however, if Obamacare does not pass, the left will blame Republicans.  Let us see here; Democratic President in the White House, check, Democratic-controlled House with 255 Democrats (need only 218 to pass health care reform) check, Democratic-controlled Senate with 60 Democrats, what they said was a FILIBUSTER PROOF MAJORITY! check.  Let the blame game begin, oh wait, it already has.

    – A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned — this is the sum of good government. – Thomas Jefferson

    • What actions against President Bush?
      Can you tell me when Democrats packed Republican town halls with Nazi signs? Can you point to the death threats made to Republican congressman? Or are you just assuming that.

      Any time I saw wackos on the left comparing Bush to Hitler, I shouted them down, too.

      As for who is to blame for Obamacare, that's an entirely separate conversation. Whatever passes or fails — whatever the issue — the discussion should never look like this.

    • What you said

      And what I found was that the alleged evidence that Sessions was displaying behind him not only didn't support his claim, but in fact was 180 degrees opposite from his claim.

      That section of the proposed health care bill is a grandfather clause, protecting all individual policies written before health care reform becomes law. In other words, if you have health insurance, and you like your current policy, you can keep it, just like President Obama has said all along and exactly opposite of what Pete Sessions would have you believe. The bill goes on to say that insurance companies can continue to write individual policies, with new policies required to follow the new rules being enacted as part of reform. Rules like insurance companies can't deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Or insurance companies can't drop your coverage because your health care is costing them too much. You know, rules that protect the consumer.

      That a member of Congress would so distort what's in the bill crosses the line into outright dishonesty. It displays a lack of good faith in trying to negotiate a bipartisan bill. It displays a lack of factual arguments against health care reform. Sessions' defense of the insurance industry status quo is so bankrupt that he is reduced to just making things up. [emphasis added.]

      A Texas Republican making up “the facts” in a Powerpoint presentation about health care reform.

      Well, no surprise there.

  3. politicsforjim on

    The number to call is 202-863-8500
    The ad asks that we call the RNC and ask them to stop the mob.  I rarely do this sort of thing but I did today and was quite pleased that I couldn't leave a message because the mailbox was full. Let's keep it full. They are destroying this country.  The least we can do is make calls and show up to defend our congressmen at town hall meetings.

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