Free Markets, Free People

Protests Are About More Than Health Care

You can always spot an “inside the beltway” mentality – he or she judges the mood of the rest of the country by what he or she sees and hears in DC and by what those there deem to be imporant.

Marc Ambinder is no exception (and I’m not picking on him specifically – he’s just typical of the type). He has an article out in which he claims that ‘conservatives’ are blowing their chance at stopping the pending health care legislation. Why?

Well, because of the “calmness” emanating from the White House as they gear up for a counter-offensive against the health care protesters found at just about every townhall meeting lawmakers have. And, states Ambinder, Democrats are noticing that opponents have begun “to discredit themselves”.

Really? Is that why the health care numbers continue to tank in every poll taken by every polling organization out there? Is that the reason lawmakers like Sen. Arlen Specter have stated, “there is more anger in America today than at any time I can remember”?

What is clear to those who are outside the beltway and dealing with reality is that those inside the beltway have no clue about the general feeling in this country that has been turning common everyday people with only a passing interest in politics into attendees at townhall meetings with a message. It seems one can sit in DC and write glib op/eds about why “conservatives” are blowing it and apparently be oblivious to that.

Here’s Ambinder’s take:

The American people remain anxious and confused about health care reform. That is an underlying reality that Republican activists are so eager to exploit. But doing so required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media. The base condition here is an enthusiastic Republican base and a depressed Democratic base. A coherent, organized effort would have recognized that the moment the media began to take sides was the moment that the entire enterprise could be damaged. The media, being a collection of different megaphones, reported on the town hall meetings in one of two ways, both damaging to Republicans. Either they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.

He misses the point of the protests completely. Republicans aren’t in charge of this effort. And it is hard to exploit, control or “message” what isn’t yours.

This isn’t an organized effort by “Republicans” or “conservatives”. It isn’t being done to sway the media or, as he later claims, targeted toward the blue dog Democrats. This isn’t about the politics of this issue. Instead, and all you have to do is watch the various hundreds of videos out there, this is an organic and spontaneous grassroots uprising orchestrated by no real overarching organization. These are people who have sought out the townhall meeting in their district and attended to voice their displeasure with their lawmaker with no organized prompting, no organized email campaign and no preprinted fliers, etc.

And this is what those like Ambinder miss. They’ve quaffed the kool-aid that says it is all astroturf and misjudged the result. To people like him this is all about red and blue, who has the better organization, the best media campaign and timing. As usual, they focus on the wrong things:

As usual, in a pattern that the left patented during the Bush administration, the organized right lost control of its message. Lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were being asked to respond to non-sequiturs (would you support a health care reform plan that grows the deficit? Health care grows the deficit right now, so it’s a nonsense question, one that is easy for politicians to answer); ; they found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes. Both Fox and MSNBC televised Sen. Arlen Specter’s raucous town hall meeting live. It was full of confrontation and protest. There were boos when Specter reaffirmed his president’s Americanness.

Of course, the latter point is both minor and a sideshow and misses completely what is going on. What Americans who are confronting legislators over in these townhall meetings is the pattern of deception and misrepresentation they see as rampant now. My favorite line from one of the townhall meetings was “I’m tired of being lied too. I’m tired of being lied about. And this administration has done both of those”.

Ambinder thinks this is all political theater. He’s missed completely the visceral aspect of these protests. He sure that now that the Obama machine is finally paying attention they’ll overwhelm the relatively disorganized rabble.

Well he needs to get a clue. The people of this country can recognize real astroturf when they see it. The know what real political theater looks like. They understand that a big crowd showing up somewhere with the same signs and dressed alike most likely means they aren’t from around there.

There is a difference between organic anger and manufactured joy and unlike the Ambinders of the world, most Americans know the difference and are not fooled by it. It is one thing to organize political rallies during a campaign that have that manufactured appearance. It’s another thing entirely to bring that sort of nonsense to what a lot of people consider a life and death debate about their health care.

Another thing analysts like Ambinder miss is the cumulative effect of the reaction of Democratic lawmakers have given to these protesters. When you show up at a townhall meeting to confront a lawmaker who is ignoring you and you’re characterized as a “mob”, “political terrorists”, “racists”, “thugs”, “un-American” and finally likened to the KKK, you’re not going to forget it.

Many who have, for the first time in their lives, actually take the steps to attend such meetings and end up being labeled in those terms are not going to forget what was said and who said it. And as has been obvious, many of those attending aren’t Republicans or conservatives.

One of the reasons these eruptions are happening is because lawmakers have rejected the call by the country to slow down and have a real and substantive debate about this pending legislation. But you have to actually listen to the protesters and understand what they’re saying. Instead we get a handwave that dismisses them as rabble and a complete misreading of what is going on in favor of the DC show.

This is the sort of denial that happens constantly in the happy little bubble within the beltway. The seemingly total disconnect from the reality of the situation in the country is incredible. This is real. This isn’t going to stop. And it isn’t about “influencing the blue dogs” or “Republicans” or “conservatives”. My advice to people like Ambinder is to do himself a favor and actually listen to what is being said for a change or, heaven forbid, attend one of these townhalls and see for himself.

This isn’t about political shows and who shows up with the best organized protesters. This is about a growing fight for the heart and soul of America, and the inside the beltway types are missing it completely.

~McQ

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22 Responses to Protests Are About More Than Health Care

  • The fact is that the extremism of the right wing (death squads, fears of “enslavement” *chuckle*, etc.) is starting to turn the debate back to the Democrats side.  Consider Jon Stewart’s beautiful mocking of the radical right last night, especially Glen Beck’s claims that health care is about “reparations.”
    The far right is using techniques that remind me of the National Socialists in the early thirties.  Fear mongering, demonization, and lies.   I don’t think they are a threat though.  Demographically this country has changed, and the “America” the right wing wants simply exists no more.   The racism, homophobia, and lack of concern for equal rights is giving way to a much more progressive society.   That’s good, but of course the minority who fears the change is going to be loud.   But they really can’t stop the march of history, and their shrill irrationality will cause the public to turn on them, just as they turned on similar efforts (McCarthy, etc.) in the past.   As with immigration a few years ago, political junkies caught up in clips and stories of rage and rallies over-estimate the depth of feeling on this issue.  It’s a different era, get used to it.

    • It’s a different era, get used to it.

      Ah…I see…you must have attended one of those fancy colleges where they teach you to say “get used to it” instead of “We won, F*ck you!”.
       
      Gotta love how positively ignorant you are though doc. When the speeding pendulum towards the right knocks you ass over tea kettle in 2010 I doubt we’ll see you here much for a while, in the meantime, keep up the good work, your arrogance and elite snobbish, talking down to the little people behavior is of tremendous help towards making the undecided decide.

  • I agree, health-care is only one part of the anger that these protests represent.  “Producers” are fed up and the health-care grab put them over the top.   This is about collectivism vs. individualism, pure and simple.  Should make for an interesting 2010 election.
    Erb – You should go look up the definition of….on second thought, never mind.  It would be a waste of time for someone like you.

  • So Scott, how do you manage to breath with your head in a hole in the ground?  I just don’t understand how you don’t suffocate.
    Or does the vast supply of air in your head help?

  • Where’s Ott Scerb when you need him?
    The thing that most of the inside the beltway types don’t understand is that the reaction isn’t because of any specific proposal, it’s because people don’t trust the gov’t to run anything competently. That’s a necessary pain in the neck sometimes, but when you’re talking about healthcare, that’s important.
    Like Mort Kondracke yesterday, who blamed it all on Rush Limbaugh. You see, the stupid masses are all riled up because Rush made them afraid with all his demagoguery.
    The other thing they don’t realize is that this isn’t just about health-care, it’s about a gov’t that’s spending money like a 16 year old girl in Saks with daddy’s credit card and we know who’s gonna have to pick up the tab.

  • I think Scott wanted to fill the remaining gap in defamatory rhetoric with the allusion to Nazis.

  • My own blog entry today, “Shades of Goebbels…” refers to the similarities of the rabid right with the Nazis.  Luckily America is strong enough not to give in to those who use lies to arouse anger and emotion.   There is a growing backlash against the far right and their dishonorable tactics, and that will probably push health care reform to victory.   Right wing bloggers and pundits get so inbred they tend to believe they are a far bigger group than they are.

    • Luckily America is strong enough not to give in to those who use lies to arouse anger and emotion.

      I am in total agreement.

  • The tact is to portray enough of the opponents as ‘radical’ to scare enough of the center back to indifference.

    So after a week and a half or so, they’ve cherry picked the nutjobs and those who’ve extrapolated the end state of the slippery slope this bill does start going down. The fact it took about two weeks to garner these soundbites is a testament to how on focus the opposition is with the current legislation and its implications. Its also a testament to how desperate the Left is to take the discussion off the legislation itself and how it makes liars out of Obama and the Democrat Congressional Leaders.

  • how do you manage to breath with your head in a hole in the ground

    It is not in a hole but rather up his own a$$.  And considering he has been breathing his own sh1t for years, it isn’t really a problem
    So Scott, the mask has completely fallen off isn’t it … McCarthy…. Nazis … Goebbels …

    Anyone you forgot, perhaps John Wayne Gacy?

  • “This isn’t an organized effort by “Republicans” or “conservatives”. It isn’t being done to sway the media or, as he later claims, targeted toward the blue dog Democrats. This isn’t about the politics of this issue. Instead, and all you have to do is watch the various hundreds of videos out there, this is an organic and spontaneous grassroots uprising orchestrated by no real overarching organization. These are people who have sought out the townhall meeting in their district and attended to voice their displeasure with their lawmaker with no organized prompting, no organized email campaign and no preprinted fliers, etc.”

    This is the real key to what is going on and the growing disconnect with the “inside the beltway” crowd. The appearance of a real grassroots uprising cannot be understood or appreciated by the very same people the uprising is directed against. And the reason for the uprising is that very fact – the disconnect between the beltway and the rest of America.

    A certain so-called professor from Maine wants you to think it is tied to a general disapproval of the course America has been on for the past 30 years – a general change of course to a left leaning “more progressive” mentality. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is submeged in Academia, maybe the only part of this country more disconnected from the people than DC. The 2008 election was the result of the left being motivated for something and a lack of motivation on the right combined with better organization for the Democrats – nothing more. Winning an election with 52% of the vote does not equate to a 90% mentality.

    The reality of this uprising is that this country remains a center-right country. And the center and right have become motivated in a way that has been unseen in this country for so long that the collective geniuses in DC and Academia cannot understand or grasp the significance. Even the 1994 midterm elections did not have the fervor of todays’ anger. And health care is only the tipping point – the straw that broke the camel’s back kind of thing. And the Democrats are planning on attacking Immigration and Social Security next?

    The first among the “inside the beltway” crowd to recognize this for what this uprising is and harness this fervor will win. God help the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2012 if there can be found a similar rallying cry ala the “Contract With America” that the general populace can latch onto – the 1994 bloodbath will seem like a mild upset by comparison.

  • Obama can salvage this health care debacle only one way – Call a halt to all of the various versions of HR 3200 and start over. Take charge of the entire process, bringing both parties into the ring in a meaningful way and rework the entire proposal. That would show real leadership. That would nip this entire uprising in the bud. This one action could save his Presidency and the result could be a real lasting meaningful reform of health care in this country.

    But it is the one thing he will not do because to do so requires leadership – something that has not been observed in this Presidency.

  • Nothing says “Nazi” like being against a gigantic centralized power grab!
     
    Seriously, give me a break; that’s just stupid, full stop. You may think calling “Middle America” Nazis will just pipe the hoi polloi right, but, well, my first paragraph says it all. If anybody’s being Nazis here, it’s the people ramming centralized government power through over the people’s will, and no amount of leftist rhetorical dancing is going to make that accusation fly.

  • I unfollowed Ambinder on  Twitter when he repeated the slander against the grassroots and it provoked me to foul language.
    These people are truly vile.
    And truly clueless.

  • I agree. It would not be impossible to slowly work on real reforms in a piecemeal fashion, i..e one step at a time, with proper time to consider the issues. That would most likely lead to simply upgrading our private system, which is not what Obama wants. He really wants a single payer – its obvious. Why else shove everything into one bill? Why the rush? I understand political capital slowly leaks away, but you could pass smaller bills in the interim and gain some back.
    Oh, and of course Big Pharma will end up behind “reform” because industry understands very well that you have to be at the same table with the regulators to get the best deal possible. The idea of 150 million in ads to keep their prices up is brilliant. Whichever CEO thought of that deserves his paycheck.
    Hey, remember how the lefties decry the large percent of Big Pharma spend on advertising and marketing? LOL, now its okay.

  • SShiell – “Take charge of the entire process, bringing both parties into the ring in a meaningful way and rework the entire proposal.”

    While I agree that this would be better than trying to continue on the current, contentious path, I think it would rapidly get to be quite contentious itself because the only “consensus” about health care reform is that the present system (if one can honestly call the mish-mash of government programs, HMO’s, private insurance, etc. a “system”) is unsatisfactory.

    Let’s assume that the system does need to be reformed. Well, HOW? What do we want as the end state? Most Americans seem to have a hazy desire that everybody – somehow – gets good health care when they need it without having to worry about bankruptcy as a result. The problem is that these two desires are not especially compatible: “good” health care can be quite expensive, and SOMEBODY has to pay those costs. The free market can and does provide excellent care… if you can afford it. A command economy can and, in other countries, does provide universal care… if you can survive it!

    Imagine the bloggers and normal commenters here trying to design a “health care reform” bill. The free market types would want little or no government intervention in the system at all in the beliefs that it distorts and raises costs, inhibits innovation, is contrary to the values of a free society, and presents too many opportunities for political shennanigans and corruption. In contrast, the nanny-staters would want a great deal of government involvement if not total government control in the (insane) beliefs that a government system would be inexpensive, efficient and, above all, fair.

    What possibility for consensus exists between these two positions? IMO, not a bit. So, what to do?

  • “What possibility for consensus exists between these two positions?”

    I do not think there is much argument that there is a need for reform in the medical system. The key question you ask is “What do we want as the end state?”

    If all we want to do is take those not insured and bring them into the fold – that’s easy. Because that is simply an expanision of Medicaid. Now the point thee is to what extent – 47 million? BS! Some elimination must occur – including the elimination of illegal aliens.

    But if we want to extend the coverage to all who are underinsured – how do you then define that apect fo the question. Who or What determines what is “underinsured?”

    The reality of the question is that once we define the ultimate goal of the reform, then you can begin putting together the measures need to reached that defined goal. If we continue to proceed on our current path of unlimited access for all to all – it will end up where we are today.

    • SShiell – “The reality of the question is that once we define the ultimate goal of the reform, then you can begin putting together the measures need to reached that defined goal. If we continue to proceed on our current path of unlimited access for all to all – it will end up where we are today.”

      But that’s the problem: for the left, unlimited access for all it the alleged goal. It may even be that many lefties really are stupid enough to honestly believe that this can be done without compromising quality of care and / or bankrupting the country. That’s sort of beside the point; whether they honestly believe it is possible or not, it’s their stated goal. They also aren’t about to bar the illegals from the program. Quite aside from any humanitarian impulses they may have, they hope to turn those illegals – PRESTO! – into citizens who can vote. Need it be said that giving them free health care is a good way to ensuring that those votes go heavily into the (d) column? (I think that this is what TAO means when he says the he plans to tackle “immigration reform” next year)

      So, what now? Both sides are capable of drafting a “reform” bill that would satisfy their own partisans and many independents. Neither side can draft a bill that will satisfy its own partisans and even a fraction of the other side’s partisans. Further, I’d say that the partisans on both sides have ZERO confidence that the other side will even negotiate in good faith. Those of us on the right believe that “health care reform” is a lefty Trojan Horse intended to increase government power over the citizens. Those on the left believe that we are being paid to do anything in our power to stop any sort of reform so that our corporate masters can continue to line their pockets (oh, and we’re racist, too). It seems to me that there’s as much chance for consensus as there is between Hamas and Israel.

      Frankly, I personally am not interested in reaching a consensus on this issue as I believe that the left will eventually convert ANY sort of national health care plan, no matter how modest, into the socialist behemoth they want. TAO and other leading dems have made it clear that “single payer” is their goal. They want it now, but are prepared to wait years to get it. Give ‘em and inch, they’ll take a mile. You can’t trust the left.

  • An additional thought:

    Whether or not one agrees that the current system is broken, the federal government has no constitutional role in it at all.  By agreeing that Uncle Sugar needs to do something to fix this problem, we lose a major battle to the lefties.  It’s sort of like

  • Bah.

    I was going to write, that it’s sort of like working out a deal with a thief that will give him only half your money: you SHOULD be resisting him getting ANY of it.