Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Town Hall Meetings

At least two of Washington’s Democratic Congressmen were scheduled to hold town hall meetings over the past few days. They each had their own method for dealing with large, possibly loud and unruly crowds of protesters.

Rep. Rick Larson had a town hall meeting scheduled at a fire hall. Anticipating large crowds, he changed his plans and held the meeting at a baseball stadium instead. That’s the spirit. He showed that good old American ingenuity, and he got out there and faced the music. (H/T to Demeur.)

Rep. Norm Dicks, whose district includes Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, had a somewhat, uh, “different” approach. With so many news reports about town hall meetings gone wild, he transformed his town hall meeting into a small invitation-only “listening session” at the Red Lion in Port Angeles, WA.

There was a demonstration outside the Red Lion while Dicks was huddling inside with his “listening session.” Funny story: a local Republican leader has been endlessly repeating the Party Line. You know the drill — these protesters are all acting on their own. There isn’t some sort of [sigh] big corporation or Astroturf group that’s [sheesh] “masterminding” [roll of the eyes] these demonstrations. Etc.

And yet, two days before Norm Dicks’ appearance in Port Angeles, this Republican leader predicted that there would be “about fifty” demonstrators near the Red Lion while Dicks was speaking inside. This is Amazing! This guy is wasting his incredible talent just being some sort of mid-level Republican operative. He could be making a fortune as one of those TV psychics. Apparently, he had a precognitive vision of fifty Port Angeles residents getting up on the morning of Friday, August 14th, boiling with anger at the thought of government bureaucrats regulating the insurance industry. Simultaneously each one of them would pick up an empty placard (since we all have a few of them lying around the house), quickly scrawl a slogan on it, and make a beeline for the Red Lion Inn.

I went to check out the demonstration. As far as I knew, there weren’t any counter-demonstrations planned. I was tempted to make my own sign with a few misspelled words and blend in with the anti-Obama crowd. Something like “ObamaCare is Socalism” or “Obama Wheres You’re Birth Certificit.”

Anyway, it turned out there WAS a counter-protest. Without any publicity — the local paper didn’t mention anything about it and most of the people there said they didn’t know about it — about thirty to thirty-five of us were there. The anti-Obama crowd didn’t have quite the “fifty” people that appeared in that guy’s Vision — I’d guess about forty people.

The demonstration was at a busy intersection along a one-way street. The traffic came to the “Anti” crowd first; we were across the street. After passing through the intersection, the traffic passed us. Even though we were slightly outnumbered by the “Anti” group, our group got a lot more honks and waves and thumbs-ups. I didn’t see any hostility toward either group during the time I was there — no middle fingers, cusswords, shouting matches, etc. But an awful lot of cars drove silently past the Anti-reform crowd, came through the intersection, and then when they saw our signs they honked and waved and cheered.

My “favorite” scene from the “Anti” crowd: a kid no more than ten or eleven held up a sign saying “I love my Grandpa. Don’t you dare put him to sleep.”

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Blogger Lew Scannon said...

In an honest debate on health care reform, the health insurance industry would lose, that's why they resort to scare tactics to obfuscate the truth.

August 15, 2009 at 5:40 AM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

Well I let loose on my blog about this thing. It's not nice but it's been done.

I do find it wrong that the news did not report the true nature of the meeting. this almost lends fodder to the "liberal media" nonsense I hear.

Here's how I see it, the anti Obama crowd is more organized, rabid and vocal so they do have the chance to alter perception and make it seem like the country is not in favor of health care reform. But in reality, I don't think they represent the majority of Americans at all. And this has always been the problem. If more Americans just gave a passing interest in these matters, the nut jobs on the far right would be on the fringe and forgotten.

The one good thing I see in this is that these loons are splintering the Republican Party and forcing them to either pick a new direction or stay the course. If they stay the course we're good to go.

August 15, 2009 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

I'm surprised Norm Dicks didn't just hold a meeting of handpicked defense contractors...

August 15, 2009 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger rockync said...

I'm a child of the 60s and I love peaceful protest and civil disobedience. Even participated in a few protests and marches "back in the day."
My problem now is that I live out in the country and nobody comes here to have a town hall meeting and the closest ones are too far away.
There is a small group that comes out on the corner of our little Main St about once a month to protest the war in Iraq. I usually try to stop by and spend a little time with them when they are out.
I think that while the right came out making the most noise to start, it is becoming clearer as each day goes by that there is more support for healthcare reform than opposition.

August 15, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

There is a lot of willful ignorance on the anti-reform side, hence the yelling, they have nothing to say because they don't know anything, and don't want to. Open and civil discussions would freak those guys out, they might have to say what they think in a calm, collected manner.

August 15, 2009 at 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad "grandpa's BEEN asleep so long already,otherwise these crooked sons of bachelors would never have gained so much unchecked power.

Thanks for the post and comments.

August 15, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Like Lew said.

Sounds as though Dicks wimped out, which is unfortunate. Some give and take is healthy and helpful. If the crazies aren't allowed in in large numbers, a meeting with a few of them in attendance can be held well enough so that one or two can have their say without turning the whole thing into an unseemly brawl.

I think the Obama strategy of holding a lottery and giving tickets to winners, two per family, is a good one.

Ricardo, Bill Moyers, on PBS last night, had a good discussion about how the media are giving a false impression about how numerous and effective the shouters and whiners are.

August 15, 2009 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

But I've learned so much from the rabid Righties. I learned Obama is a Democrat, foreigner, Liberal, Authoritarian, Nazi, Socialist, AND a Communist...All at once. His wallet must be so full of membership cards he never needs a chair to sit on.

Ya just can't fool those Fox educated, Limbaugh/Palin Murakins. They all know the REAL story.

August 15, 2009 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

SW I would have loved to have seen that. I think these clowns are much smaller and the producers for the news outlets are looking to spike the story with some drama. I mean this country would be wall to wall militia groups if these people were the norm and I don't know too many militia members.

August 15, 2009 at 5:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: You're right, the rightwing shouters and rent-a-thugs are the insurance industry's only chance to defeat reform.

Ricardo: I think that's the problem -- the Right is better organized and more vocal. And they're more willing to fight dirty. I hope the wackjobs will splinter the party and go their separate ways.

J: Yeah, that seemed more likely.

Rockync: I think you summed it up. The Right is making most of the noise, but the public is in favor of health care reform.

Holte: Saying what they think in a calm collected manner -- nope, that isn't something the Right does very well. Take away their bullhorns and they're lost.

Anonymous: Good point -- too many people have been asleep for too long.

SW: I think Dicks made a huge mistake not holding that town hall meeting. Some of the rightwing protest signs were directed at him for copping out, even more than against "socialized medicine."

Dave: Ah yes, what would we do without the great wisdom we've learned from the Right. "His wallet must be so full of membership cards he never needs a chair to sit on" -- LOL.

August 15, 2009 at 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

They take their tactics from the anti-abortion crowd in having their children do their own damned dirty work for them. I'll keep saying it until this is over: When they go up against a bunch of cops in full riot gear, then I'll take their little "protests" seriously.

The astroturfers are easy enough to identify - they are the delusional 20% who thought Bush was still doing a good job when he left office. Hardly representative of the country, hardly representative of anyone but the fringe, ultra-paranoid element that needs to be put back into the fringe where it belongs.

Hats off to Rick Larsen for thinking outside the box - excellent form. Huzzah!

August 15, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

GOP knuckleheads in the house and senate (a few at least) will flirt with these morons because they're starved for attention.It will come back to bite them. The smart ones in the GOP will distance themselves from these groups but still oppose health care reform but on their own terms because they got brought and paid for by the insurance companies. In fact, while I hate conspiracy theories, I would not doubt that insurance companies had a hand in organizing these protests to an extent to correlate with their ads on TV.

Notice they are accusing the government plan of potentially doing the very things they do on a routine basis. Wasn't there some major insurance company that rewarded employees for dumping very sick patients? Isn't that a "death panel?"

August 15, 2009 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I'm giving up watching the deathers and their blather. I went ahead and emailed Murray and Cantwell and told them to proceed without the republicans. It's obvious the republicans don't want healthcare reform.

August 16, 2009 at 12:57 AM  
Anonymous Carlos said...

It's nice that your local demonstrations weren't contentious; even nicer that the good guys got the honks.

Just think, a few short years ago you would've been branded un-American and treasonous ;-)

August 16, 2009 at 2:14 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bee: Yup, too many parallels between the "pro-life" crowd and the current goons who are "wary" of "death panels" and "government bureaucrats coming between them and their doctors." Different cause, same drones.

Ricardo: This definitely needs to come back and bit them in the ass, the ones who "flirt" with the fringe groups. I hope the smart/moderate ones will prevail at some point.

I guess it's OK when insurance companies sentence thousands of people to death or permanent disability just to save a few bucks.

Demeur: I sure wish the Democrats would forget this whole concept of "bipartisanship." It's just a Republican code word for "100% our way."

Carlos: Yup, suddenly the Right loves dissent and protest. Go figure.

August 16, 2009 at 11:15 PM  

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