Health Debate Turns Hostile at Town Hall Meetings

It’s quite telling that the Republican opponents to health care reform, and any other topic, have no solutions of their own. Their strategy is just to drown out any and all discussion, like little children putting fingers in their ears and screaming, “I can’t hear you”.

The bitter divisions over an overhaul of the health care system have exploded at town-hall-style meetings over the last few days as members of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.

Democrats have said the protesters are being organized by conservative lobbying groups like FreedomWorks.

[From Health Debate Turns Hostile at Town Hall Meetings]


There is no dispute, however, that most of the shouting and mocking is from opponents of those plans. Many of those opponents have been encouraged to attend by conservative commentators and Web sites.

“Become a part of the mob!” said a banner posted Friday on the Web site of the talk show host Sean Hannity. “Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!” The exhortations do not advocate violence, but some urge opponents to be disruptive.

“Pack the hall,” said a strategy memo [PDF] circulated by the Web site Tea Party Patriots that instructed, “Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

“Get him off his prepared script and agenda,” the memo continued. “Stand up and shout and sit right back down.”

Why I'm Glad We Moved Away from East Texas  

When I was a student at UT-Austin, there was an area near the UT Tower with tables from various student organizations, passing out literature, and engaging students who passed by. The Young Republicans were one such group, and on a couple times I attempted to have dialogue with them, and observed their behavior several subsequent times. They never really wanted to debate, they only wanted to shout down anyone who disagreed with them. They were not at all interested in discussion, were not interested in debate, they were intent solely on being the loudest voicein the area.

Same as now – just proto-brownshirts, attempting to stifle conversation about important topics, disrupt, lie, and intimidate opponents. To me, this proves they have no counter-arguments, no patriotism, no desire to make our country a better place.

Pathetic, in other words.

As a thought experiment, imagine if Iraq anti-war protestors swarmed in Republican Congress-critters Town Hall meetings, and overwhelmed the proceedings. Wouldn’t they have been all arrested? Wouldn’t the FBI have infiltrated their ranks?1 Wouldn’t the television news and radio demagogues blow-hards been fulminating for sending the protestors to Gitmo? Or saying “Love Your Country or Leave it!”, or other ridiculous phrases? Yes, of course. However, when the protests come from the reactionary elements of our country…

A volatile mix has resulted. In Mehlville, Mo., St. Louis County police officers arrested six people on Thursday evening, some on assault charges, outside a health care and aging forum organized by Representative Russ Carnahan, a Democrat. Opponents of the proposed changes, organized by the St. Louis Tea Party, apparently clashed with supporters organized by the Service Employees International Union outside a school gym.

That same day in Romulus, Mich., Representative John D. Dingell, a long-serving Democrat, was shouted down at a health care meeting by a rowdy crowd of foes of health care overhaul, many crying, “Shame on you!” A similar scene unfolded in Denver on Thursday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California visited a clinic for the homeless there.

In a statement Friday, Mr. Dingell, 83, deplored those trying to “demagogue the discussion,” but said he would not be deterred. “As long as I have a vote, I will not let shouting, intimidation or misinformation deter me from fighting for this cause,” he said.

The tenor of some of the debates has become extreme. Ms. Pelosi has accused people at recent protests of carrying signs associating the Democratic plan with Nazi swastikas and SS symbols, and some photographs showing such signs have been posted on the Web.

On Thursday, the talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the administration’s health care logo was itself similar to a Nazi symbol.

May Day rally 2007 Washington Bridge

One of the week’s most raucous encounters occurred Thursday in Tampa, Fla., where roughly 1,500 people attended a forum held by Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Kathy Castor. When the auditorium at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County reached capacity and organizers had to close the doors, the scene descended into violence.As Ms. Castor began to speak, scuffles broke out as people tried to push their way in. Parts of her remarks were drowned out by chants of “read the bill, read the bill” and “tyranny,” as a video recording of the meeting showed. Outside the meeting, there were competing chants of “Yes we can” and “Just say no.

At an appearance at a grocery store in Austin, Tex., on Aug. 1, Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, was drowned out as he tried to speak on health care change. One opponent had a mock tombstone with Mr. Doggett’s name on it.

Last week, a protester hanged an effigy of Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., Democrat of Maryland, at a rally opposing health care change. This week, Representative Brad Miller, Democrat of North Carolina, said he had received a death threat about his support.

Nowhere is there even a hint of what the competing Republican Health Care plan is, other than lowering taxes on the wealthy and sprinkling holy water on the wounds of the indigent. Or something equally as magical.

  1. they probably did, actually []

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