Rocking the Town Halls - Conservatives Embrace Mob Rule
by Charles Lemos, Sun Aug 02, 2009 at 06:38:24 PM EDT
The above video is the unruly reception from the conservative tea party set that Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Texas received at a town hall meeting held at a Randall's supermarket yesterday. The story in the Austin American-Statesman:
Back in Central Texas while Congress is on a month-long recess, Congressman Lloyd Doggett faced an angry reception at a town hall meeting at an Austin Randalls store yesterday.
Doggett, D-Austin, spoke at the Randalls at Brodie and Slaughter lanes on Saturday. A video of the event on YouTube shows many in the crowd showed up with signs denouncing President Obama's proposed health care plan.
Witnesses say that when Doggett was asked if he would support the plan even if he found his constituents opposed it, Doggett said he would still support the plan. From there, the crowd began chanting "Just Say No," and overwhelmed the congressman as he moved through the crowd and into the parking lot.
"The folks there thought their voices weren't being heard," said Kathy Acosta, a Bastrop resident who attended the meeting at Randalls and another one later that day in her hometown. "They were angry, but they were respectful. There wasn't any violence."
No violence? Well, isn't that a relief? Conservatives sure do have an odd definition of what constitutes respectful behaviour. Nor is the above an isolated incident. In a town hall held back in June in his Long Island district, Politico reported that right-wing protesters surrounded Congressman Tim Bishop, Democrat of New York exhibiting such foul-mouth, abusive and threatening behaviour that police officers had to escort the beleaguered Congressman to his car for safety.
After that June 22 event held in Setauket, New York, in which protesters dominated the meeting by shouting criticisms at the Democratic Congressman for his positions on energy policy, health care and the bailout of the auto industry, Congressman has chosen to temporarily suspend holding town hall meetings even though he has held over a hundred since first being elected to Congress in 2002.
"I had felt they would be pointless," said Congressman Bishop adding that "there is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation."
More from the Politico story:
At a health care town hall event in Syracuse, N.Y., earlier this month, police were called in to restore order, and at least one heckler was taken away by local police. Close to 100 sign-carrying protesters greeted Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) at a late June community college small-business development forum in Panama City, Fla. Last week, Danville, Va., anti-tax tea party activists claimed they were "refused an opportunity" to ask Rep. Thomas Perriello (D-Va.) a question at a town hall event and instructed by a plainclothes police officer to leave the property after they attempted to hold up protest signs.These disruptions, these unholy poisoning of our national conservative, are the latest tactics of the conservative tea party that aims to impose a tyranny of the minority. From Think Progress:
The targets in most cases are House Democrats, who over the past few months have tackled controversial legislation including a $787 billion economic stimulus package, a landmark energy proposal and an overhaul of the nation's health care system.
Democrats, acknowledging the increasing unruliness of the town-hall-style events, say the hot-button issues they are taking on have a lot to do with it.
"I think it's just the fact that we are dealing with some of the most important public policy issues in a generation," said Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), who was confronted by a protester angry about his position on health care reform at a town hall event several weeks ago.
"I think in general what is going on is we are tackling issues that have been ignored for a long time, and I think that is disruptive to a lot of people," said Bishop, a four-term congressman. "We are trying, one by one, to deal with a set of issues that can't be ignored, and I think that's unsettling to a lot of people."
Freshman Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), whose event at a Syracuse middle school was disrupted, said that he still planned to hold additional town halls but that he was also thinking about other options.
"I think you've got to communicate through a variety of different ways. You should do the telephone town hall meetings. You should do the town hall meetings. You should do the smaller group meetings," said Maffei. "It's important to do things in a variety of ways, so you don't have one mode of communication."
"You're going to have people of varying views, and in this case, you've got the two extremes who were the most vocal," Maffei said of the flare-up at his July 12 event.
This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obamas reforms. The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:It should come as no surprise that FreedomWorks is chaired by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. That FreedomWorks is involved with Tea Party Patriots dispels any notion that these are some sort of citizen activist grassroots organizations. These groups and these disruptions are orchestrated by the leadership of the Republican Party and it is time to expose them and their tactics of mob rule. Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.The memo above also resembles the talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks for pushing an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by Americans for Prosperity, is currently busing people all over the country for more protests against Democratic members. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the NRCC, has endorsed the strategy, telling the Politico the days of civil town halls are now over. Meanwhile, AHIP, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry is sending staffers to monitor town halls and other right-wing front groups are stepping up their ad campaign to smear reform efforts. The strategy for defeating reform recently outlined by an influential lobbyist to the Hill newspaper as delay then kill is becoming apparent. By delaying a vote until after the August recess, lobbyists are now seizing upon recess town halls as opportunities to ambush lawmakers and fool them into believing there is wide opposition to reform.
Be Disruptive Early And Often: You need to rock-the-boat early in the Reps presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Reps statements early.
Try To Rattle Him, Not Have An Intelligent Debate: The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.