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.