The people as the new opposition

Paul Jacob

8/9/2009 12:00:24 AM - Paul Jacob

Picking your friends is an important part of life. Picking your enemies is an important part of politics.

Americans who chose to attend town hall meetings this August to protest the many possible Utopias and Frankensteins still to be fashioned into Obamacare — rather than going to the mall, the golf course, or the swimming pool — are now smeared in portions of the media as members of a violent, nazi-like mob.

Why?

It’s not because of their behavior. After reviewing YouTube videos for hours and also reading and watching what passes for news coverage, I was struck by how civil people actually acted at these town hall meetings.

True, some folks were angry. Who can blame them?

And a few sounded pretty darn scared. But, you know, so am I.

There appeared to be one incident of actual violence. At Rep. Betty Reed’s town hall meeting in Tampa, also attended by Rep. Kathy Castor, a man was roughed up. He was pushed up against the wall and scratched across the chest. His two attackers, caught on video, then walked back inside the room and appeared to be with the event security, as one was controlling who could get in the doors.

The poor, manhandled man didn’t seem to be the aggressor, as far as I could tell. For one, he was there with his wife. When I expect trouble to break out, I never bring my wife along.

Much of the crowd, blocked from entering the meeting hall, then chanted “you work for us” and “hear our voice.” Not bad chants, in my book.

Meanwhile, now-Democratic Senator Arlen Specter explained to an incredulous Pennsylvania crowd that there are all these health care bills — each over 1,000 pages long — and “we have to make judgments very fast.” Statements like Specter’s warrant a certain raucous response.

One reason these public meetings are contentious is because most Americans aren’t buying what congresspeople are selling. As for intensity of opinion, a Rasmussen Reports poll shows 41 percent strongly opposed to the so-called reforms, while only 25 percent strongly in favor.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen offers this straightforward analysis: “By a two-to-one margin, the American people believe no matter how bad things are Congress could make it worse.”

That’s the real reason a smear-job is being done on the public protest at these town hall meetings: Grassroots America is not the opponent Obama and congressional Democrats wish to play against.

The same smears were brought against the Tea Parties back in April and again on July 4. And for the same reason. A lot depends on sticking your enemies with a limiting definition. Why debate them when they can simply be dismissed?

With the exception of Fox News, which has been openly supportive, most of the major media has been dismissive of, followed by hostile to, the recent Tea Parties. Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post’s media critic, admitted that the events were at first “largely ignored” by his paper, the New York Times and the television networks other than Fox, even though estimates are that 600,000 Americans turned out nationwide.

Later, the events were maligned as partisan Republican protests.

Between 1994 and 2008, when Republicans were gaining a governing majority, their best asset was the weakness of the opposition: the common perception of Democrats as out-of-touch, arrogant, wasteful, tax-and-spenders.

Not being a Republican, I mainly feared that the Democrats presented too weak a check on the power of the majority. Of course, congressional Republicans, as they consolidated power during the George W. Bush years, behaved strikingly like their opponents, so destroying the Republican “brand” that now I worry about the unchecked power of the Democrats.

Simply put: If congressional Republicans are the opposition to Obamacare or anything else, the Democrats are bound to prevail.

That’s why Rachel Maddow on MSNBC went to great lengths last week to list various people working for groups opposing the Democrats on medical care and associated with town hall protests as Republican or “right-wing.” The point was clear: all these people participating in the political process don’t count; we must not listen to their voices; they are barely human. They are merely the pawns of the Republicans or big corporations or somebody equally loathesome.

Ponder with amusement:
    1. If Republicans could really organize and “manufacture” such support, wouldn’t they still be in power?
    2. Is that all the Republican or corporate links she could “expose”?
    3. How many links could be drawn between what passes for objective journalists and the Democratic Party?

The mud-slinging against concerned citizens taking part in town halls and other events is a fearful lashing out against the real opposition to the big government plans animating Washington, DC: the people.

The Dems can swim laps around discredited congressional Republicans. Regular hard-working folks represent a far tougher foe.