Vocal Protests at town hall meetings about health care reform
(c) William Brown
Ah, democracy! It never works better than when informed citizens gather in town hall meetings to discuss and debate the issues of the day.
But, oh, democracy! It's never more damaged than when partisan zealots plot to disrupt town hall meetings in order to prevent any honest debate of the issues.
And that's exactly what's happening in health care forums held across the nation by members of
Having encouraged viewers to show up, sympathetic anchors on
Funding and direction for the Stalinist-style campaign comes from two conservative, lobbyist-run
Tea baggers, in fact, have been busy lately. They came out in force on
How do tea baggers know when and where to show up? Easy. Organizers e-mail a list of scheduled congressional town hall meetings nationwide. Pick one near you, or sign up for the bus.
And how do they know what to do when they get there? That's easy, too. A leaked memo by
Rule No. 2: Be as disruptive as possible. "You need to rock the boat early in the Rep's presentation." Why? Rule No. 3: "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."
Clearly, the tea baggers' goal is not to take part in any debate over health care, but to prevent any debate. And that, I believe, will prove counterproductive.
The more their disruptive tactics are seen on YouTube, the more these town hall bullies will turn people off. Americans don't like rude, ugly, obnoxious behavior, on the left or the right. Health care is a serious issue, demanding and deserving of serious debate. Turning loose the mob to shut down that debate is not the way to win the hearts and minds of undecided Americans.
Astroturf protestors have one other problem: While they're against Obama's plan for health care reform, they're not for anything else. There is no alternative Republican plan. The only thing they have to offer is the status quo -- which is simply unacceptable. Because the status quo means insurance companies continue to rule: able to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition, able to limit or drop coverage because of serious illness, and able to raise premiums annually -- thereby bankrupting both families and businesses.
In the end, the staged town hall protests will hurt the opposition's cause, not help it. Which is why, were I a Republican member of
Bill Press' latest book is available at Amazon.com: Trainwreck: The End of the Conservative Revolution (and Not a Moment Too Soon)
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