I’m terrified that future generations of Americans aren’t going to have adequate health care. I just watched the video of what happened at the recent Health Care Town Hall Meeting in Florida. In case you haven’t seen it…
Most progressive blogs I’ve been reading have been using this incident to bash the right-wing anti-reform “mobs,” but that’s not what scares me the most about what’s happening. I’m more afraid that we’re talking about this crap INSTEAD of talking about why reform is crucial to repairing our flawed health care delivery system.
The Anti-Reform Right wants Americans to believe that Health Care Reform is part of a larger diabolical plot to turn America into a socialist/Communist Dystopia where everybody’s rights are taken away and the Obama Regime assumes absolute control. What better way to play into the Health Insurance Lobbyists’ hands than to shut American citizens out of an event with their elected official that was advertized as an open, public forum?
It’s obvious, to me at least, that the anti-reform protesters have broken at least five of the top 10 rules for staging a good public action. They have no identifiable leadership or spokespeople; they don’t have a clear demand beyond “open the door;” they let their members contradict themselves (one guy is shouting, “we just want to listen,” which is clearly untrue); they escalate the situation with law enforcement, instead of diffusing it; and they don’t have any contingency plan for what to do in case the situation gets out of control.
Now, this part is less obvious, but I would bet that they also don’t really know what they want or why they are there, which is the most important part of any public action. That’s because, in truth, they were just there to disrupt the events and make sure their fellow citizens couldn’t get pertinent information about the Health Care Reform debate raging in Washington, the outcome of which will have life-or-death consequences for millions of Americans.
Given their fundamental weakness, it makes no sense to me that the progressives played to their enemies’ strengths instead of weaknesses. The first bad move was not letting these folks in. You have to let them earn their banishment, especially in the YouTube era. Once inside the forum, it would have been much easier to neutralize their presence.
If Congresswoman Castor had asked the mob what they wanted, she would have gotten a mix of dumbfounded looks and a cacophony of incoherent answers from dozens of self-appointed ad hoc “leaders,” none of them making any sense.
She could have easily diffused the situation further by asking the group to identify themselves as such (“what is your group called?”) and then setting up a time to meet, saying “let’s talk about your group’s concerns at a meeting,” and moving on with her presentation. Everybody loves being part of an organization powerful enough to get a 1-1 meeting with a congressperson, so this shouldn’t have been too hard.
If the mob continued to disrupt, she would have had the sympathy of the non-mob crowd who wanted their questions answered when she kicked the mob out of the room.
The Anti-Reform Right is using the same playbook that progressives have used for years (with the fundamental difference that they don’t really speak for the majority of Americans, and certainly not lower-income folks). They bet, rightly, that Democrats couldn’t handle it when they flipped the script.
How come our side can’t deal with this better? It’s doubly-disappointing because our Community Organizer-In-Chief could easily have prepared his troops for this situation. Progressives deserve better from our elected leaders. We haven’t done a good enough job making them really understand that their power comes from the grassroots, which is why we lose so many of them once they are elected.
There are probably more than a few people saying that meeting with the mob would be rewarding bad behavior, and in a way that’s right. That’s where Jesus comes in. The Bible is a manual for social change (among many other things), and the whole part about loving even your enemies is (among many other things) a great strategy for winning victories on important issues.
Just imagine what a meeting between Congresswoman Cantor and the righty mob would be like! They would actually have to come up with talking points about why the health of millions of everyday Americans like themselves is less important than the profits of millionaire Insurance Company CEOs. They would have to explain why Medicare and the Veterans Administration are such bad examples of health care, and how the private insurance companies are a much better option for so many Americans (including, presumably, the elderly and Veterans).
If things got out of hand, as it did sometimes in the Old Days, Jesus teaches us that you can just ask a question. “So, what kind of life do you want for your kids?” I can promise that, after enough listening, it would become clear that people want better health coverage, more freedom, and lower costs. Who doesn’t?
Egotistical polticians would probably think a meeting like this is a waste of time, but the mob would ultimately have to face the fact that they had been bamboozled by the big Insurance / big Pharma lobbies…and that’s some Jesus-style tough love that they could really use.