Add Woodrow Wilson International Center scholar Jamie Stiehm to the growing list of people worried that the health care debate will trigger a race war. Here's Stiehm scaring Philadelphia about the town hall mobs:
When a man brings a gun to a New Hampshire meeting, when a Missouri woman tears up a poster of civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and when long-serving Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) and Rep. John Dingell (D., Mich.) are shouted down by hostile home crowds, then we've got trouble. History tells us these un-American incidents undermine civil society.
Philadelphia has seen a rising tide of mob violence before, in Jacksonian America during the 1830s. The culmination came when a grand new temple of free speech was burned down by a mob while the police, firefighters, and the mayor did nothing to stop them. […]
The economic Panic of 1837 probably accounted for some of the Philadelphia crowd's violence. Racism was certainly there in droves. The lack of municipal authority and failure of leadership fanned the flames.
What the burning of Pennsylvania Hall tells us, though, is that an ugly hatred lived and festered in the country itself. For if something so drastic could happen in dear old Philadelphia, the state of the union was in danger in 1838. The writing was on the hall.
And so it is today, with violence in the air. If it could happen there and then, it could happen here and now.
Let's see, what's different between America in 2009 and America in the 1830s? Hmmmmm…. Nope, can't think of anything.
And yes, the Wilson Center is funded partly through your tax dollars.