Tuesday, August 11, 2009

These Town Hall Meetings

They are going on around our area, and they pretty much are going like they are in the rest of the country. Claire McCaskill's people held one in Blue Springs last night. The Examiner ran a story about the event which is kind of summed up by this exchange:

“We want an open forum,” a man yelled.
“They don’t want to know what people are feeling about this,” another woman yelled. “We want an open discussion.”
Another man, who refused to identify himself to the media, said: “It’s time for a revolution.”
Sarah Jordan, a Blue Springs resident, stood up on a chair and asked that everyone remain calm, and that everyone realize that’s what the opposition wants.
“Keep this calm,” she said. “That’s what they want – chaos. Our point will never be heard. We don’t want this to turn into a riot.”
“You don’t sound calm!” a man shouted from the rear of the crowd, followed by more shouts of displeasure, and demands that a microphone be plugged in so everyone could hear.
When library officials attempted to plug in the microphone, one man yelled: “They can’t fix the microphone, but they want to fix our health care. Call FOX News, they’ll fix it!”
A blogger named "Nice Deb" was also at the event and posted about her experience (as well as taking the photo above). Deb was also apparently an active participant.

I asked a question, myself. (Man, was I nervous!) I asked if Senator McCaskill would support tort reform in the Senate bill, and she said she didn’t know. I did get her to confirm that the Senator supported the public option. I then faced the audience and said, (paraphrasing): “I think we all know, because Obama has said so himself on several occasions that the public option would necessarily lead to a single payer, universal health care system”. I said that many Democrats had admitted this, including Jacob Hacker, the Berkeley professor who designed the plan. He said, ‘this isn’t a Trojan horse…it’s right in there!’ I went on, “Now, nevermind that the White House has been…*thinking feverishly for a more delicate term, and failing*…lying profusely about what he has said, the bottom line is, the American people do not support a universal health care plan” (Applause). I turned to her and asked, “Does Senator McCaskill support universal health care? She shook her head no.
Why one has to paraphrase herself is unclear to me, but she at least asked a question. Another guy described in her post used the opportunity to instead talk about his love of the Constitution.

So that was one of our local events. Elsewhere, Arlen Specter was busy fending off the wrath of God and taking suggestions that all laws be written in junior high level English so everyone can read them.

All of this, and how heated it has become makes a quote I read yesterday on Andrew Sullivan's blog seem pretty poignant. It is from Colin Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson.

"One of the most dramatic moments [of the campaign] for me was when I was watching McCain on television, and I thought I saw in McCain’s eyes himself, when someone yelled something out, a recognition of, ‘Oh, God, what have I done?’ This is not McCain; he doesn’t cater to this. But for the first time in his political life, I think he realized that there are some strange people in the Republican tent. My father used to say, ‘Larry beware of the left because they will bankrupt you; beware of the right because they will kill you,’" - Larry Wilkerson.
It's important not to paint the entire group of protesters at an event like the town hall meetings as potential killers. It's also important to remember, however, that one thing passionate mobs do really well is help provide killers with courage. We would be wise to figure out how to dial things back a bit.

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