Senator Barbara Boxer recently declared that, before the current round of town hall meetings on health care reform, the last time she had seen such suspiciously well-dressed protestors was during the 2000 Florida election recount. Well, yes—until Obama’s presidency, that’s the last time Republicans showed up en masse to get really angry about something; screaming and chanting are political tactics more naturally suited to the left.
As for the couture angle—here’s a newsflash for Boxer: Republicans have higher standards than Democrats. A typical left-wing protest involves twenty-somethings and washed-up hippies in ratty T-shirts and shredded jeans breaking windows at a local Starbucks during the midmorning rush.
The average right-wing protest—invariably held in the evening, since attendees have jobs in the daytime—involves adults who dress as though they would like to elevate community standards, not degrade them. Participants address their concerns directly to those in power, such as legislators, rather than assailing defenseless third parties, such as coffee franchise employees. The fact that most conservative protestors come directly from work may explain why they wear suits and skirts, but apparently Senate Democrats believe opinions are valid only if expressed by people sporting Birkenstocks and buttons urging presidential assassinations.
When Boxer and other Congressional Democrats realized that Americans don’t view “well-dressed” as an epithet, they moved in the opposite direction: they claimed that the protestors were scruffy rabble-rousers after all. House Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted that she had seen demonstrators “carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on healthcare.” Translation: One protestor had a swastika with a slash through it, and others were displaying American flags and ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ banners—you know, symbols like swastikas.
Saddling protestors with the “brownshirt” label didn’t work, so Obama’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina warned Democrats who were planning town hall meetings, “If you get hit… punch back twice as hard.”
Evidently some representatives took this message literally: at a town hall meeting in Ohio, Representative Russ Carnahan hired union organizers to deny entry to citizens who looked as though they might oppose health care reform legislation, several of whom were promptly mauled by union thugs and sent to the hospital. Outside, black conservative Kenneth Gladney was racially slandered and physically attacked and sent to the emergency room by an unidentified opponent for handing out ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags. Protestors were also roughed up at a meeting held by Florida Representatives Kathy Castor and Betty Reed.
Naturally, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid’s response to this onslaught of leftist violence and intimidation was… to blame Republicans for not minding their manners. Reid accused protesters of attempting to “sabotage” the process; he said, “These are nothing more than destructive efforts to interrupt a debate… They are doing this because they don’t have any better ideas.”
Well, yes, actually, we do have one or two, which you may not have heard, because we’ve only been ranting about them for the past, oh, two decades: malpractice tort reform, Medicare reform, health savings accounts, healthcare tax credits, vouchers for private insurance, and pay for performance. More generally, competition in the private market for health insurance, and individual autonomy regarding level and type of coverage and risk tolerance. Other than that, we’re flush out of ideas!
In an effort to quell dissatisfaction among constituents, Democrats in Congress finally decided to listen to town hall participants’ ideas and give thoughtful responses that address their concerns. Just kidding! The latest tactics being employed by congressmen across the nation are: (1) showing up at town hall meetings, reciting a few talking points, claiming the crowd is too boisterous when they open their mouths, and leaving; (2) announcing meetings at the last minute in the hope that no one will attend; and (3) holding “virtual” town hall meetings.
For example, Representative Kathy Castor’s spokeswoman defended Castor’s abbreviated appearance in Florida by stating, “We said all along our role was to come and give an update on the bill in Congress… [T]hat’s what we did.” And that’s what websites are for.
Michigan Representative John Dingell waited to announce last Thursday’s 6pm town hall meeting until Thursday morning. Word of mouth spread throughout the day, however, and that evening Dingell faced hundreds of constituents who were not impressed by his deceitful maneuver.
At least Castor and Dingell showed up in person; other congressmen, such as Representative Brian Baird of Washington, are planning virtual meetings with constituents. According to The Columbian, “If you happen to be sitting near a publicly listed Clark County telephone line on the right day at the right time, your phone will ring… [T]he exact date and time will be kept secret from the public… [A]n automated message will ask whether you have a question… Sitting at his own telephone at an as-yet-undisclosed location, Baird then will choose a name based on its location and the topic… After the call is over, the recording will be posted on his Web site.”
Baird helpfully notes that this system will allow for “a much better cross-section of the public,” by which he means “a cross-section of the public that is not knowledgeable or concerned enough to attend a town hall meeting.” Note to Baird: There’s a reason they’re called “town hall meetings,” not “prescreened anonymous secret one-way teleconference recordings.”
In the end, some congressmen have decided to simply give up on their constituents. New York Representative Tim Bishop chose to suspend town hall meetings in his district until late August—you know, when just everyone will be around—because he concluded there was no point in facing an “unruly mob.” Senator Claire McCaskill similarly issued a last-minute cancellation of a scheduled event due to “safety” concerns.
In the same way that Democrats denigrate protestors who adhere to a “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” standard, they have sunk to a new low: projecting their party’s historic propensity for mob rule and violent agitprop onto frail, elderly grandparents in bowties and cardigans.