Much attention has been paid over the past few days to the raucous Congressional town halls that some see as a sign that the American people are revolting against ObamaCare and deficit spending. I’ve written about it, and the Club for Growth has cataloged the protests here, here, here, here, and here. There have been some allegations that the protests aren’t genuine, and the DNC has put out an ad trying to tie the protests into other “right wing extremists” such as the birthers.
Outside of the question of whether this is a grassroots rebellion or the result of Dick Armey’s astroturfing, though, is a more important point:
Is it ever the right thing to do to shout down the political opposition at an open meeting?
I realize people are angry. I know that conservatives feel a sense of powerlessness as Republicans in congress fumble and stumble around and the Democrats seem to have it all going their way. I accept the fact that this health care bill is a fearful monstrosity and that extraordinary measures should be taken to defeat it.
But is screaming in impotent rage at your congressmen the way to go about doing it?
Judging from the tactics of the right and the left over the past 40 years or so, the cesspool that talk radio has turned into, and the daily fare that one sees on the cable news networks between 5pm and 11pm every night, it certainly seems like people think the answer to that question is yes, but I’ve got to agree with Rick Moran on this one:
Every single poll shows that the more people know about this bill, the more they detest it. Logic and reason would go a helluva lot farther in showing people how bad this bill is than giving into emotionalism for the sake of a little theatrics and releasing pent up anger. You are not doing the cause one iota of good by demonstrating poor manners and stifling free speech.
Those citizens who are on the fence on this issue (the ones who will probably decide the fate of health care reform in the end), and who are trying to learn more about it, only see a bunch of angry, irrational people, incoherently ranting when they want to hear both sides of the argument. The question is, do we give them a chance to find out how bad this bill is or do we drive them into the arms of those supporting the measure by coming across as a bunch of bozos?
This is not a zero sum game. There is much more to be gained by demonstrating reasonably and respectfully than going off half cocked and disrupting what is, after all, part of the democratic process. There is a real chance that the entire idea of health care reform can be defeated for this congressional term.
But it won’t happen if conservatives continue to make it impossible for the majority of voters to see their side of the argument because they are preventing everyone from hearing both sides.
In other words, conservatives need to be a lot more like William F. Buckley, and a lot less like Rush Limbaugh. It’s hard to persuade the people you need to persuade when all they hear is stuff like this: