The LA Times wrote today about how tea party activists are happier with the GOP for their stand against health reform. It’s been clear enough that the tea party movement is simply an offshoot of the Republican base, with enough distance not to tarnish them with the legacy of failed President George W. Bush, so this just cements things. And that’s why you can see the GOP base for what it is, with these latest actions:

Federal and local authorities are investigating a severed gas line at the home of U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother, discovered the day after Tea Party activists posted the address online so opponents could “drop by” and “express their thanks” for Perriello’s vote in favor of health care reform.

The gas line to the home’s propane tank was slashed, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The teabagger who initiated this by printing Perriello’s brother’s home address responded to this by shrugging and calling it “collateral damage.”

Meanwhile, Steny Hoyer has confirmed an uptick in threats against Democratic lawmakers. He said that more than 10 members have already sought additional security.

In an emotional interview, Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) blamed the GOP leadership for the rise in violent rhetoric:

In the wake of the passage of the health care bill, Democratic members of Congress are receiving death threats and implicit threats against their families. One of those members–pro-life Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) who voted for final passage–has had to deal with more than his fair share. Last week, the anti-reform advocacy group the Committee to Rethink Reform published an ad in The Cincinnati Enquirer featuring a photo of Dreihaus with his children. (Both the Committee and the Enquirer have retracted and apologized for the ad.) Now, conservatives are planning a Sunday protest outside of his house, after a conservative blog put his address–complete with directions–on the Internet […]

“I think it’s really important for folks around here, especially leader Boehner, to understand that his words have consequences,” Driehaus said. “Leader Boehner suggested that if I vote yes on this bill and go home to the west side of Cincinnati, that I could be a dead man…. It really calls into question his ability to lead. He should be a statesman.”

Driehaus confronted Boehner about the interview on the floor of the House. “I told him it was inexcusable,” Driehaus said. “It doesn’t really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It’s how the least sane person in my district accepts it.”

Republicans’ hardline anti-reform rhetoric is changing in the days after reform. But for Driehaus, the damage has already been done. “They are tacitly endorsing the inappropriate behavior and trying to use it to their political gain,” Driehaus said. “And they’re willing, apparently, to put members families at risk in order to do so.”

I would say that Driehaus, an anti-choice Democrat who was among the last holdouts of the Stupak bloc, now knows what young women who seek a legal abortion go through when they have to endure threats and intimidation and shouts of “Murderer,” but that’s only tangential to my point. (He should think about it, though. Leadership matters.)

There’s no question that the rhetoric used by Boehner and members of his party can have dangerous, even tragic, consequences. And we’ll know who to blame if that day ever comes, and I hope it doesn’t.

Tom Perriello, for his part, is putting things in perspective:

Perriello said his family doesn’t want him to be afraid. But when asked if he was scared anyway, the Virginia Democrat replied: “Whatever.”

“I’ve lived in Sierra Leone for two years, where the life expectancy is 34 years old. If the worst thing that happens is that special-interest groups spend millions of dollars against me and my most ardent opponents organize against me, it’s hardly a ‘cry me a river’ moment — as long as people act civil and within the law.”

Perriello, incidentally, is also anti-choice. Practice, preach, etc.

David Dayen

David Dayen