30 August 2009

About those town halls...

The White House and Democrats in Congress chose a curious strategy in response to the sometimes raucous town hall meetings. They attacked the American people.

Naturally, the mainstream media picked up on the theme. What was more disturbing is how many conservatives have offered their concern about the “lack of civility,” or some such thing. They would rather see a reasoned debate, they say; a polite airing of questions and answers.

There are a few problems with that. It is not the voters showing up to town hall meetings who tried to shut down debate. It was the clearly stated intention of President Obama and the Congressional leadership to ram a health care bill through without even debating it among themselves, much less soliciting input from their constituents. It is more than a little bit disingenuous to pretend now that it is they who are being deprived of an opportunity to fairly present their views. We know Obama’s view: “I won.” So shut up and do what I say.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, it really doesn’t work that way, and it never has. You can shut out the minority party if you want to, but you can’t just ignore the people, or expect them to go along with you every time just because they went along with you once.

President Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

By extension, I would say that those who attempt to eliminate all debate make vocal crowds at their town hall meetings inevitable. And they have no right to complain.

Beyond that, although I have not attended one myself, even in the televised highlights intended to show how out of hand the town halls have become, they really don’t look terribly unruly to me. And if you saw Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee answering her cell phone while a constituent asked a question, I think you’d have a hard time arguing she felt at all intimidated by her subjects. When the crowds roar, it seems mostly to be in approval of a taxpayer’s statement, or in loud disapproval of an elected official’s words. How else is a room full of people to participate?

Town halls are not a forum for debate, and they are not a forum for elected officials to lecture. Congressmen can lecture all they want the rest of the year. At town hall meetings, they need to listen.

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