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Did Health Care Reform Help Turn the Political Vitriol Murderous?

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

The Arizona shooting raises many questions — about guns, about toxic politics, about fate. One is relevant to CommonHealth: Did the debate over health care reform help turn this country's political conversation into something so ugly that it might spur a shooter to kill?
Just two data points on that:

From Sunday's Globe:

William Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat who retired last month after four decades in public office, said risks are part of the job — but the nature of potential threats seemed to change in the summer of 2009 at town hall meetings held to discuss the health care reform legislation.
Anger over the bill reached a boiling point, and furious crowds confronted representatives, often shouting them down.
“For the first time, I sensed that there was a potential for physical danger with the anger,’’ Delahunt said yesterday. “ . . . But it was the intensity of it, and, really, the irrationality of it. People were so angry that they weren’t listening to the answers that they were demanding.’’

And this from columnist Tim Egan on nytimes.com:

Giffords had already felt a blunt edge of opponents’ rage — a window in her Tucson office was shattered after she voted to expand health care for other Americans.

and:

In my home state Washington, federal officials recently put away a 64-year-old man who threatened, in the most vile language, to kill Senator Patty Murray because she voted for health care reform. Imagine: kill her because she wanted to give fellow Americans a chance to get well. Why would a public policy change prompt a murder threat?

Readers, what's your sense of the political ugliness around the health care debate? Is it unusual?

This program aired on January 10, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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