Is it ever the right thing to do to shout down the political opposition at an open meeting?
I realize people are angry. I know that conservatives feel a sense of powerlessness as Republicans in congress fumble and stumble around and the Democrats seem to have it all going their way. I accept the fact that this health care bill is a fearful monstrosity and that extraordinary measures should be taken to defeat it.
But is screaming in impotent rage at your congressmen the way to go about doing it?
The left has been doing it for 40 years. Poor Hubert Humphrey was hardly ever able to make himself heard during his 1968 election appearances because anti-war protestors dogged his steps, shouting him down at every opportunity. Back in those days, they didn’t remove troublemakers as they do today - at least I don’t recall that they did. Sometimes there were several hundred people chanting and screaming so removing them all would have been a problem.
Nixon was also often shouted down during that contest. It was a typical display of bad manners by the left that only served to help elect Richard Nixon and set back their cause of ending the war immeasurably.
Here are some examples of what’s been going on:
Angry protestors in Philadelphia shouted down both Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Sen. Arlen Specter.
On Saturday in Texas, demonstrators against what they called government-run health care surrounded Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett and followed him out to his car, shouting “just say no.”
The crowds are partly the result of conservative Web sites asking for turn out at town hall meetings - including three tonight in Virginia, Mississippi and South Carolina. Hundreds of events by both Democrats and Republicans are being targeted in every state.
But the turnouts also reflect the real fear over the increased taxes and government controls that are part of the health bills being considered in Congress.
“They know that that means somebody’s taxes are eventually be used to pay for this - and they are worried that that’s their taxes,” said Max Pappas of the conservative Web site Freedom Works.
As an aside, it is obvious that CBS reporters read liberal websites:
Is this just some less-than-polite heckling or political maneuvering? CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.
Funny…Brian Beutler doesn’t wonder - he knows:
On Friday, July 24, a representative of Conservatives for Patients Rights–the anti-health care reform group run by Swift Boat message man Rick Scott–sent an email to a list serve (called the Tea Party Patriots Health Care Reform Committee) containing a spreadsheet that lists over one hundred congressional town halls from late July into September.
The email from CPR to tea baggers suggests that, though conservatives portray the tea bagger disruptions as symptoms of a populist rebellion roiling unprompted through key districts around the country, they have to a great extent been orchestrated by anti-health care reform groups financed by industry. (CPR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
That email predates by about a week a recent flurry of events at which Democratic members of Congress have been accosted and harassed by anti-health care reform tea party protesters. But beyond putting those spectacles, now receiving wide play on cable news, into a fresh light, it also provides a window into the tea party protesters’ organizing infrastructure, which, like so much political organizing today, occurs in private email list serves.
Omigod - don’t tell me. The horror of it! Citizens actually organizing to protest! Oh, the humanity. (If Beutler or anyone else has a link to a tea party website that makes the claim these demonstrations are “spontaneous” I would appreciate it. In fact, if there is a link to any site on the web that makes this claim, I would like to see it. This is a strawman argument, nothing more.)
Of course, tea partiers have made absolutely no secret that they are organizing to protest at these town halls. The fact that an organization sent out a list of scheduled town hall meetings in key districts does not mean anything except liberals are worried that the right - usually moribund when it comes to protesting anything - is aping their long cherished tactics. I guess when Moveon sent out a million emails to people telling them to protest the war, that was…what? “Real” grass roots action? Puhleez.
Regardless, it’s how opponents of health care reform act at these meetings that concern me. Boorish behavior like this is inappropriate and serves no purpose other than to make the screamers feel good. That’s pretty selfish if you ask me.
Every single poll shows that the more people know about this bill, the more they detest it. Logic and reason would go a helluva lot farther in showing people how bad this bill is than giving into emotionalism for the sake of a little theatrics and releasing pent up anger. You are not doing the cause one iota of good by demonstrating poor manners and stifling free speech.
Those citizens who are on the fence on this issue (the ones who will probably decide the fate of health care reform in the end), and who are trying to learn more about it, only see a bunch of angry, irrational people, incoherently ranting when they want to hear both sides of the argument. The question is, do we give them a chance to find out how bad this bill is or do we drive them into the arms of those supporting the measure by coming across as a bunch of bozos?
What the left never understood - and still doesn’t get, judging by the way they tried to shout down Bush every opportunity they got - is that presenting your case in a reasonable manner always goes a lot farther with those who are undecided than simply trying to stifle your political opponent’s right of free speech. That tactic breeds resentment from those who are more thoughtful about politics or who are trying to learn about an issue. You lose far, far more than you gain when acting boorishly.
Again, I know people are angry. But giving in to the emotionalism of the moment hurts the cause. I realize the left has used these tactics for generations - and that may be the silliest reason of all for conservatives to mimic them. Do you really want to imitate the absolute worst tactic of your opponent? Where’s the logic in that?
This is not a zero sum game. There is much more to be gained by demonstrating reasonably and respectfully than going off half cocked and disrupting what is, after all, part of the democratic process. There is a real chance that the entire idea of health care reform can be defeated for this congressional term.
But it won’t happen if conservatives continue to make it impossible for the majority of voters to see their side of the argument because they are preventing everyone from hearing both sides.