Town Hall Ruckus

08townhall.1903 Washington The buzz before, after, and during every meeting I had in DC and the metro area at the end of the week focused on the ruckus and eruptions that had broken out in Tampa and around St. Louis at various town hall meetings for Democratic congressional representatives.  The numbers were large.  Crowds were raucous. Attacks were contentious and directed at wild fears and concerns around the Obama healthcare package.  It was easy to smell the fear inside the Beltway.

The organizing is somewhat impressive and a good reminder of the committed, activist base that is red hot and ready to trot when they get the call.  Also impressive is the right’s ability to use their media tools so effectively to mobilize their base through Fox News, websites, and various radio commentators.  They turned out.  They were loud.  They put on the heat.

I wonder why we aren’t doing more of that for these same issues that we are so desperate to pass into legislation?  If this were sports, we would be accused of playing conservative ball and trying to protect our lead.  What lead?!?

Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal chimed in with some ridiculous cheerleading that started with reprimanding the President that he shouldn’t have ever gone there.  That somehow it was a mistake to think that one should try to reform healthcare.  Huh?

These people are all elected not for some honorific sinecure, but because they are all supposedly willing to strap it on and fight for their constituents (us!) and maybe even fight for what they believe.

Congressman John Dingell from Michigan was quoted as saying a little yelling is not going to change his position about the need to have healthcare coverage for everyone.  Another story in the Journal, focused on a newly elected Democratic Congressman from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Frank Kratovil.  He was looking for 30 or so more than 300 packed the room.  He knew enough to say that he was glad to hear what people had to say.

What’s worrisome to me is in a swing district like his that had been republican for more than 15 years before his election, if someone like Kratovil feels the fear and hears the herd charging up behind him, and doesn’t see folks like all of us who are as committed and passionate about real reform, where is he going to stand when asked which side is he on?

The right may not have all of these tactics under control yet, but they are reminding us that you don’t win any of these issues in the Beltway.  They are all won at the grassroots in hand to hand combat.

Speaker Pelosi maybe nailing folks as “Astroturf” protestors, but I’m not seeing us take the gloves off on healthcare, employee rights, immigration or anything else to let Congress really understand the grassroots demand for change from our side either.  We are not going to win these fights on the sidelines.

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2 thoughts on “Town Hall Ruckus

  1. Exactly right, Wade! I’m amused when Democratic pols or pundits dismiss these right-wing town hall actions as “scripted.” It’s a naive myth that people will somehow spontaneously turn out, articulate focused demands, and the truth will ultimately prevail. All organizing is scripted in one way or another. And if you don’t have a script (ie a strategic plan, a clear issue, turnout mechanisms, etc.) you’re not organizing! We may dislike the interest groups behind this, their lies, and their shout-down tactics, but the people are real and so is their anger (however misguided). We’d be making a big mistake to underestimate the effect of the political heat they’re generating. The political right has borrowed organizing methods that progressives introduced decades ago — the interesting question is, how (and why) has the mainstream left disarmed itself by forgetting or forsaking them?

  2. I had a call Friday from a un-named woman that asked if I was going to beat her up at the townhall meeting tonight, like my SEIU brothers did in St. Louis. I suggested that if she did go to the townhall meeting here in Houston to watch out the the guys with the baseball bats and because of the tone of her conversation on this call she should stay home and just talk to the wall. This is going to be a fight and we have to win for the sake of 45 million people.

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