Ignore the “mob” at your own risk

This has been an interesting week, largely due to the reaction towards ObamaCare and these town hall meetings springing up all in different parts of the country. People are angry and they want to be heard. Whether politicians want to listen is a different story, as always.

Liberals and Democrats are correct to point out that they’ve previously been shut out of public debate on certain issues, such as the war in Iraq. Republicans mishandled and chided the anti-war crowd, sometimes questioned the patriotism, either directly or indirectly, of those speaking out against what they saw as a wrong.

Hillary Clinton, now Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, once said, “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration somehow you’re not patriotic. We should stand up and say we are Americans and we have a right to debate and disagree with any administration.”

That is a statement that we all agree with. We would just like to have an administration that actually believes in the right to voice dissent, because it seems like Barack Obama isn’t interested.

Republicans, now in the minority, have embraced opposition and are speaking out against ObamaCare (who knows whether they’ll remember what it feels like to be shut out if and when they ever get back in power). This has led Democrats to spring into action labeling protesters at town halls as part of astroturfing campaign, funded by corporations and lobbyists, an accusation that may be true in some cases, but certainly not in others. They’ve been called a “mob,” “thugs,” “facists,” and “Nazis.”

Several friends have attended town halls, all constituents of the Congressman they were going to hear that day. They all attended out of concern for themselves, their families and their country. Not one of them was part of an astroturfing campaign. The people who attended an AARP town hall in Dallas were not astroturfing.

Marc Ambinder wrote this week that even if astroturfing exists, it may still represent a popular sentiment

When you find Astroturfing, the next question ought to be: but does it reflect anything real? If it does, then you’ve got work to do.

Democrats are making a mistake to write off the dissent over their health care plan. It’s going to backfire on them at a time when their numbers are dropping nationwide, including states where they’ve previously made tremendous gains. Need an example? See Virginia.

These town halls, including the scenes in Tampa, St. Louis and Romulus, Michigan, really do back up what we’ve seen in the polls over the last few weeks. Americans are concerned about more government involvement in health care and freedoms they’ll lose, bigger budget deficits and they want to know if Congress is listening.

Whether these protests and the attempted silencing of the opposition is accomplishing anything remains to be seen, but it is clear that these protests reflect a serious divide in our country. Politicians, ignore it at your own risk.

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