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.
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.
Robert Reich writes what I can only characterize as a whining rant which is so, oh I don’t know, odd, that I have to comment. It has to do with a supposed deal the White House has struck with “big Pharma” which Reich claims keeps the government from negotiating lower drug prices in return for 80 billion in cost savings (if the government has wrung 80 bil in cost savings, isn’t that a negotiation for lower cost that has already been accomplished?):
I want universal health insurance. And having had a front-row seat in 1994 when Big Pharma and the rest of the health-industry complex went to battle against it, I can tell you firsthand how big and effective the onslaught can be. So I appreciate Big Pharma’s support this time around, and I like it that the industry is doing the reverse of what it did last time, and airing ads to persuade the public of the rightness of the White House’s effort.
But I also care about democracy, and the deal between Big Pharma and the White House frankly worries me. It’s bad enough when industry lobbyists extract concessions from members of Congress, which happens all the time. But when an industry gets secret concessions out of the White House in return for a promise to lend the industry’s support to a key piece of legislation, we’re in big trouble. That’s called extortion: An industry is using its capacity to threaten or prevent legislation as a means of altering that legislation for its own benefit. And it’s doing so at the highest reaches of our government, in the office of the president.
Notice first that the word “market” never appears in his diatribe. In fact, “market” doesn’t appear in his piece at all. That’s because Reich doesn’t care about markets. And, of course, any market that exists in health care has been so distorted by government that it hardly qualifies for the term.
Reich cares about control. And he wants full control by government. Notice that when politicians use threats to prevent legislation’s passage if what they want isn’t included in (or taken out of) a bill, that’s called “compromise”, but when an interested constituent (and pharma as a business that is government regulated certainly qualifies as that) promises to work against pending legislation that wouldn’t be in their best interest unless they get concessions, that’s “extortion”.
Reich only wants the government to have the power to extort what it wants and it makes him mad when constituents use their power to push their interests. He claims that thwarts “democracy”. Really?
As I see it, it is exactly the brand of democracy the Democrats have practiced for eons – special interest democracy. The only reason Reich is a little irritated in this case is because the special interest in question isn’t one which the left favors. Democracy, in Reich’s world, is when favored special interests
“extort” petition the government, make deals and get legislation passed which serves their interests.
All that said, I agree with one point – what in the world is the White House doing striking such deals? Since it can’t write the legislation, how does it guarantee whatever concessions it’s agreed to will show up in the final legislation? And what happens if it doesn’t make it into the final legislation after big Pharma spends more money than John McCain did during the presidential election for TV adds supporting Obamacare?
That’s one of the trends now. If you can’t argue the merits of the legislation, make gross and unsubstantiated assumptions and claims and take off from there. For instance, this from Keith Boykin at “The Daily Voice”, which claims to be “black America’s daily news source”:
In the past few months, we’ve witnessed the unleashing of the radical elements of the Republican Party base. The anti-tax economic conservatives, racist Obama-haters, gun-toting Second Amendment fanatics and birth certificate conspiracy theorists have two things in common: they’re mostly white and they despise President Obama.
With the groundwork laid (one has to wonder – if blacks despised George Bush, was that because they were racists or because they were ideologically and substantially opposed to his agenda?), however loosely with everyone lumped into the same category and characterized by race, Boykin finally gets to his point:
And it doesn’t matter that the president’s domestic policies of providing universal health care, middle class tax cuts, and economic stability will benefit the very people who cry the loudest. This is not about policy. It’s about politics. The politics of rage and race.
Of course Boykin again assumes things not in evidence to make his claim that it is all about race. First, he dismisses the legitimate arguments which have been brought forward about health care, secondly he seems to believe that the spending spree the administration has been on won’t have to paid off and third, he’s apparently blind to the fact that the “economic stability” he touts has been purchased with a future debt which will cripple us economically. Notice I made those points easily and without once even hinting about the race of the president.
They all are legitimate reasons to speak out, all legitimate reasons to be a bit enraged about the direction of the country. But, with his grand generalities and false assumptions in place, Boykin continues to build his case for this all being about race:
The town hall meetings have been branded “town brawls” by the media, but they are really “town mauls” where angry mobsters silence dissent and discourse. And despite the denials from the right, race is a deciding factor here.
So now, Americans acting like Americans are not only un-American for doing so, they’re racist.
And Boykin isn’t the only one pushing this line. David Boaz at CATO has a couple more examples. Paul Krugman, whose arguments for the health care legislation have been weak at best, also pulls the race card to lump “town hall mobs” in with “birthers”:
But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.
That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship.
Philip Kennicott throws race around in a Washington Post piece entitled “Obama as the Joker: Racial Fear’s Ugly Face”::
[T]he poster is ultimately a racially charged image. By using the “urban” makeup of the Heath Ledger Joker, instead of the urbane makeup of the Jack Nicholson character, the poster connects Obama to something many of his detractors fear but can’t openly discuss. He is black and he is identified with the inner city, a source of political instability in the 1960s and ’70s, and a lingering bogeyman in political consciousness despite falling crime rates…
Superimpose that idea, through the Joker’s makeup, onto Obama’s face, and you have subtly coded, highly effective racial and political argument. Forget socialism, this poster is another attempt to accomplish an association between Obama and the unpredictable, seeming danger of urban life.
This is a building theme which is a classic diversion by the left. Using it allows them to play the powerful “politically correct” card they’ve so lovingly cultivated for decades. And it is something which needs to be nipped in the bud right now.
The assumption that this is all about race attempts to plaster that claim over the obviously horrendous problems evident with government taking control of health care and the history of Americans of all races protesting such attempts at government expansion. It is, in reality, a classic move by the left to use political correctness as it was intended to be used – to stifle debate. And what we see coming out of the likes of Boykin, Krugman and Kennicott are the racialists laying the ground work to make the charge.
Their arguments are weak, but their intent is clear – broad-brush tarring of those who oppose this administration as nothing more than racist whites opposing the administration’s plans for no other reason than the president is a black man. That, of course, makes dismissing their arguments much easier to do and that is precisely the intent of playing the race card.
Someone at one of the protests recently yelled:
I’m sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic. We need to stand up and say we’re Americans, and we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration.
Oh, wait – that was Hillary Clinton back when there was a Republican administration.
So, is the sentiment expressed by Clinton and so roundly applauded by the left -then – no longer applicable?
Is “speaking truth to power”, no longer approved or something to be desired?
This is the most sickening and disgusting aspect of the left’s reaction to the protests of average Americans against a government action with which they disagree.
What happened to “we have the right to debate and disagree with any administration?”
I heard no caveat in that declaration. She didn’t say “any administration but a Democratic administration”. Or “any administration but one trying to pass health care legislation”.
If the left actually believes in speaking “truth to power” and that Americans have the right “to debate and disagree with any administration”, what is all the name-calling and hyperventilating over real Americans doing precisely that?
If they actually believe that, what’s this?
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas, said she thought the protests against government health care at lawmakers’ town hall meetings were “un-American and disrespectful.”
“What we’re seeing right now is close to brownshirt tactics,” [Rep. Brian] Baird (D-WA) said Wednesday …
What is becoming increasingly apparent as America watches this train wreck unfold – and concerned Americans are characterized as enemies of freedom – is that all the previous talk about “dissent” and “patriotism” and “speaking truth to power”, not to mention a “right to debate and disagree with any administration”, was just words. They were a convenient weapon to use against their political enemy at the time. They gave the proper lip service to freedom and liberty and empowered the left’s dissent.
But when the occasion to actually apply those words and ideas presents itself, even if they happen to be on the other side of the debate, they toss them overboard like so much trash. No such empowerment to the rest of us – no sir.
With the left, politics and party have and always will trump freedom and liberty. Hopefully the brownshirted, un-American mobs protesting this unconstitutional hijacking of health care are picking up on that this time.
Hope and change.
Protesters have been called “angry mobs”, “paid agitators” and recently, “brownshirts” and “unAmerican” – all by Democratic Congressmembers.
You knew it was only a matter of time before the racialists got into the act. And right on cue I give you “WhiffleBall” with Chris “thrill up his leg” Matthews:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Put 100 of these people in a room. Strap them into gurneys. Inject them with sodium pentathol. How many of them would say “I don’t like the idea of having a black president”? What percentage?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Oh, I’m just guessing. This is just off the cuff. I think 45 to 65% of the people who appear at these groups are people who will never be comfortable with the idea of a black president.
Just freakin’ amazing – it’s all about Obama to these folks. Having looked at video after video after video of interviews with the “mob”, the “browshirts” the “unAmerican”, I can only wonder where Tucker and Matthews even pretend to come up with this line of dialog.
Pretty sad stuff, but, for the party which invented identity politics and the politics of personal destruction, not at all surprising.
As much as some would like to believe that the reason that Obamacare isn’t doing well among the American people has to do with “misinformation” being thrown about, in reality it is much more basic than that. Ramesh Ponnuru does a very good job of laying out the two conflicting portions of the promises made and why Americans aren’t buying the explanations given by politicians when they question them:
There are two basic points about health-care reform that President Obama wants to convey. The first is that, as he put it in an ABC special in June, “the status quo is untenable.” Our health-care system is rife with “skewed incentives.” It gives us “a whole bunch of care” that “may not be making us healthier.” It generates too many specialists and not enough primary-care physicians. It is “bankrupting families,” “bankrupting businesses” and “bankrupting our government at the state and federal level. So we know things are going to have to change.”
Obama’s second major point is that–to quote from the same broadcast–“if you are happy with your plan and you are happy with your doctor, then we don’t want you to have to change … So what we’re saying is, If you are happy with your plan and your doctor, you stick with it.”
So the system is an unsustainable disaster, but you can keep your piece of it if you want. And the Democrats wonder why selling health-care reform to the public has been so hard?
Add to this the fact that while Obama makes the promise about keeping your doctor and keeping your coverage, the legislation that has been passed out of committee in the House does not reflect that promise at all. Underlay all of that with the understanding most Americans have about the proven inability of government to handle anything in an efficient and cost-effective manner and you can understand both the angst and anger reflected out there today.
But Ponnuru’s point is very important – Americans may not be read in on the fine print and nuances of the bill (but then neither are the politicians who’re out there saying it’s the best thing since sliced bread without ever having read the thing), but they know enough to understand you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a radical and complete overhaul of a system – changing the status quo – while at the same time, at an individual level, keep everything in the “status quo”.
And that’s what they’re fighting. The conflicting promises are obvious. Just as obvious then is one of those promises is a lie. And Americans have figured out which it is. Thus the roiling anger at townhall meetings that greet the purveyors of the lie and polls showing whopping majorities of Americans want nothing to do with this plan.
The left has a very short and convenient memory – it apparently begins at January 20th, 2009 and has no memory of , say, 2005. And the left now thinks that what his happening with these townhall meetings is simply unprecedented and a new, low chapter in right-wing extremism.
But as Jon Henke reminds us, this is nothing new:
* NW Progressive Institute, March 2005: “a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. … Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel…. the crowd erupted in anger… Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again.”
* Savannah Morning News, March 2005: “By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security.”
* USA Today, March 2005: “Shaken by raucous protests at open “town hall”-style meetings last month … Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers.”
You must understand that when Democrats did it in 2005, it was political dissent. Now that the right is engaged in the same sort of behavior, it is “political terrorism”.
They really don’t like it when their own tactics are used against them, do they?
Peggy Noonan, in her WSJ piece today, said this:
We have entered uncharted territory in the fight over national health care. There’s a new tone in the debate, and it’s ugly. At the moment the Democrats are looking like something they haven’t looked like in years, and that is: desperate.
If you’re wondering what that desperation looks like, Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post provides the example:
The recent attacks by Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers on the effort to reform the health-care system have been so misleading, so disingenuous, that they could only spring from a cynical effort to gain partisan political advantage. By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They’ve become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems.
Of course there’s no mention of the multitude of lies propagated by those pushing this legislation – like taxes won’t go up, like the public option won’t eventually drive private insurance out of the market, or like Obama’s promise about keeping your doctor and your insurance aren’t reflected in the current version of the legislation.
Nope, those who oppose it and actually try to bring these things to light are now “political terrorists”.
That is so over the top that it is hard to find the proper words to reflect my indignation. Dissent is now political “terrorism”. Again the desperate left shows it is immune to irony and completely blind to its own hypocrisy.
But it should come as no surprise that an ideology which is, at base an authoritarian one would want you to just shut up and let their elite decide what is good for you. Here are couple of vids to show you who the “political terrorists” are and what they’re thinking:
Democrats are playing a very, very dangerous game with all of this. If they continue to try to squelch dissent and mischaracterize the citizenry as it tries to express its views in opposition to what they’re doing, 2010 will be a bloodbath for them.
They need to realize that they’ve totally misread the tea leaves of the election and this is obviously not what the American people want. If they ram it through despite what polls tell us is majority opposition to this legislation, they may very well see a completely different Congress in a year.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t an “extreme right-wing mobster” doing the attacking. The scene was a townhall meeting in St. Louis, MO. The report is from the St. Louis Dispatch:
Kenneth Gladney, 38, a conservative activist from St. Louis, said he was attacked by some of those arrested as he handed out yellow flags with “Don’t tread on me” printed on them. He spoke to the Post-Dispatch from the emergency room at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, where he said he was awaiting treatment for injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face. Gladney, who is black, said one of his attackers, also a black man, used a racial slur against him before the attack.
“It just seems there’s no freedom of speech without being attacked,” he said.
So now we have violence introduced into these meetings where none existed previously.
And what’s been the only change?
The mobilization of unions to counter the protesters from the right.
Yeah, nothing can go wrong with that plan, can it?
UPDATE: Video of the attack.
Listen at about the 1:00 mark when one of the thugs that attacked him claims that Gladney “attacked America”. Also note that the black guy who runs away in the beginning is wearing a union tee-shirt as is the guy who is eventually arrested.
We now have real paid organizers promising to produce bodies to confront the citizenry showing up at townhall meetings to loudly voice their disapproval.
The nation’s largest federation of labor organizations has promised to directly engage with boisterous conservative protesters at Democratic town halls during the August recess.
In a memo sent out on Thursday, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney outlined the blueprint for how the union conglomerate would step up recess activities on health care reform and other topics pertinent to the labor community. The document makes clear that Obama allies view the town hall forums as ground zero of the health care debate. It also uses the specter of the infamous 2000 recount “Brooks Brothers” protest to rally its members to the administration’s side.
What could go wrong with this scenario? First, who says they’re all “boisterous conservative protesters?” This is about union members going to an event expressly to confront those who are voicing a dissenting opinion and quelling that. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge “fail”. Talk about setting themselves up for a huge backlash.
“The principal battleground in the campaign will be town hall meetings and other gatherings with members of Congress in their home districts,” reads the memo. “We want your help to organize major union participation to counter the right-wing “Tea-Party Patriots” who will try to disrupt those meetings, as they’ve been trying to do to meetings for the last month. …
Yeah, nothing could go wrong here.
But, of course, since this is true astroturfing, there’s a political payback being demanded:
But while the union conglomerate seems poised to flex its political muscle on Obama’s behalf, it may find some friction on the policy front. Detailed in Sweeney’s memo are certain legislative priorities that are clearly at odds with what seems likely to be produced in the Senate Finance Committee’s compromise bill.
Sweeney describes it as a “requirement that ALL employers ‘pay or play,'” that the final bill have “a robust public health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and drive down health costs,” and that the legislation contain “relief for company/union funds providing pre-Medicare retiree coverage, and no taxation of health benefits!”
Yes friends, these protesters will truly be paid protesters. If they help intimidate the citizenry at the townhall meetings, then they expect to see their legislative desires fulfilled.
As the AFL-CIO spools itself up to confront the “mobs”, its secretary issues the battle cry of the astroturfer:
Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud — as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.
Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.
Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents — not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction
We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone – on all sides of the issue – deserves to be heard.
Does anyone out there have to wonder what tactics they’ll use to ensure others are “heard”? Republican can only pray they do.