I have a very low tolerance for intimidation or violence, so Genghis’ post on the Town Hall protests is appreciated. However, as a Republican, I think these people, my party, and protest in general are getting a bum rap in this instance, based primarily on whose ox is being gored. Let me explain how, in several ways.
First, to act as is this is a Republican movement is silly. The national Republican Party cannot get out of its own way, never mind strategize and execute an effective, nationwide grass-roots movement. If they were this sophisticated at mass-motivation, the last two elections may have had different endings. But they aren’t. These events seem to be locally organized, and ignited by legitimate grass-roots passion, not what Nancy Pelosi called “Astroturf.”
As for the actors, it seems to me a lot of these protesters are independents who became a bit sore after President Obama – who promised to be a different kind of Democrat, not a tax and spender, and opposed to deficits, proceeded to double the projected annual deficit within one month of taking office. That’ll make people feel that have been had. Since Obama does not do too many local visits, these swing voters are taking their complaints to the audience they can find — their local representative.
Third, the whole point of August recess is to allow Congress to discuss pending legislation with their constituents. It is far better that these representatives know how people feel about a major pending bill — such as the health care overhaul, or as Chris notes, the 2003 Iraq War vote — BEFORE the vote takes place, not thereafter. So I think that voters going to Town Halls and letting their reps know how they feel about health care is a very solid piece of citizenship. Goo-goos are always telling people to get involved, go to meetings, write letters. But now a group of voters is making their opinion felt, both on passed bills (the Bailouts), and on pending legislation (health care), and suddenly they are a bunch of thugs. This strikes me as cherry-picking. I.E., “Its good for democracy if you show up to protest legislation I DON’T LIKE — such as authorizing the Iraq War — but bad for democracy if you oppose one of my pet legislative goals, which is universal health care.”
In short, if this is a debate, the representatives should welcome the opposition, and try to counter it, rather than hiding out and/or blaming the protesters for not playing by the Marquess of Queensberry rules.
As for why they are angry about health care reform, it is probably not any particular passage in the various bills, but rather the similarity between the extreme haste demanded by Obama to push through the Stimulus, and the resultant disappointment, which reminds these voters of what has been inarguably a rush to pass this fast, fast, fast. It’s a big chunk of the economy, and has to do with people’s most important and intimate choices, and I think these people feel it is being rushed, and that maybe that is dangerous. Plus, experience shows that every health care plan, from Medicare to the Massachusetts universal plan, overruns cost, and after the massive deficits of this year, more deficit spending is simply anathema. Deficits lead to more taxes. What we are seeing is the middle class fearing higher taxes, especially after both Geithner and Axelrod admitted that general tax increases cannot be ruled out. Ergo, passion. Lots of it.
Again, if this a debate, let’s debate. If it is a fait accompli, then pass it, and don’t seek cover by calling your opponents names. And as for “all of us being patriots,” it’s true. Chris, you didn’t like it when you were protesting Iraq and some called you un-American. I wouldn’t either, and I would never say that, as I admire people who take the time to express their views peacefully. I think what you did was patriotic. And while I have not been to any of these Town Hall meetings (the Tea Parties were a separate phenomenon), I am equally proud of these voters for letting their reps and the rest of the country know how they feel. And by the way, recent polls show they are on the side of the majority, as a plurality now oppose Obama-care. It’s not a fringe. It’s a bunch of angry voters, and I recommend the reps take note, or else find out that 1994 was not an isolated electoral event.