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Posted by on Aug 8, 2009 in Economy, Politics | 20 comments

Quote of The Day: Why Even Fiery Town Hall Meetings Are A Positive Thing

Our political Quote of the Day comes from the Atlantic’s always perceptive Marc Ambinder who offers this perspective on the increasing ugliness of the healthcare Town Hall meetings:

There’s lots of lamenting on the left about all the teabaggers showing up and town hall meetings on health care being held by returning members. The right’s all atwitter about organized labor and the left sending people to these meetings. I’m not sure any of it is really bad. Obviously, death threats, demonization and the like are not good for civil discourse. No one gains from shouting. In a perfect world each town meeting would be a civilized discussion of the merits of different approaches to health care. But that’s not the world we live in. The more likely alternative is no interest, sparsely attended meetings or just one side showing up.

At least you can say there’s some civic engagement going on. Yes, a lot of it is based on fear mongering and stoked emotions. Rush Limbaugh’s rant yesterday comparing the “Democrat party” to Hitler was among the more absurd things ever spoken. But the enemy of legislation is apathy and we’re not in an apathetic season. There’s real passion over this issue, even if a lot of it is based on willful ignorance.

FOOTNOTE: Ambinder is generally one of the cooler heads and an excellent reporter as well. His take on it here is of someone who took a deep breath, stepped back and didn’t get caught up in the emotions felt by people on both sides of this issue. Is this indeed the up-side and an important one? (Your answer in comments, pul-leaze..)

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Father_Time

    Rational people don’t want to act like a wild idiot at these town hall meetings. Rational people that have healthcare problems are being shoved aside by the wild idiots at these town hall meetings.

    Town hall meetings are not necessary. President Obama won the election largely on healthcare reform. Congress needs to comply by cooperating a heck of a lot more!

    It is absolutely NOT necessary to give the minority a greater voice than they actually have by holding these stupid town hall meetings. Make them have a million wild idiot march in Washington or something. They can’t and you all know it.

  • jwest

    It is truly frightening to read a comment like Father Time’s because it’s becoming clear that he is saying what most Democrats feel.

    When people start to openly say that we elected a leader and should therefore “comply” with his wishes without comment, it shows how important it is to maintain an active opposition. Suggesting that the minority should be ignored and open meetings are unnecessary highlights how a charismatic figure can overwhelm the rationality of the easily persuaded.

    Now there are those on the left who accept and probably cheer on the violence of the union thugs against citizens speaking against socialized healthcare.

    How quickly those who profess to be tolerant and open minded turn into the arbiters of what is allowable speech and acceptable thought. If your opinion of a policy doesn’t match that of the Leader, you had best keep it to yourself – otherwise you risk a beating or being reported to the government.

    Where have all the “liberals” gone.

    • SteveK

      It is truly hilarious reading a jwest comment.

      A joker who’s twisted and distorted world view makes all of us (right and left) realize, by his example, what a loony extremists thought process must look like.

      And, as he’s not open to honest feedback or debate you needn’t worry about wasting time and energy in trying to engage him in a civil discussion… Just say, “Thank you and keep up the good work”.

  • CStanley

    Depends on what you mean by fiery. I feel that people on both sides are doing a lot of things to try to shout over their opponents or belittle/marginalize them. The right wing protestors would be better off organizing outside venues and then let some well spoken, non-hothead types go inside to actually ask pointed questions about the legislation. The left wing activist groups should also organize outside the venue if their main purpose is to try to counter the number of people showing up opposing the bill. If supporters of the legislation also have relevant points to make, then by all means go inside and tell your Congressperson why you support this type of reform effort- but don’t talk over the people who might want to point out why they feel this plan won’t reform anything.

    What is happening is a whole lot more heat than light, and Ambinder seems to accept the false dichotomy that we have to either have emotional displays or apathy. I’d rather strive for real debate.

  • jwest


    When you read my comments you see truth and light – then you realize your entire life has been spent worshiping a lie.

    That’s why you spend so much time rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

    Break the bonds of leftist subservience and join us on the side of freedom. You’ll feel better – empowered, open, clean and informed.

    We’re here for you when you’re ready to stand up to bullies and thugs.

  • $199537

    I agree with Ambinder in the sense that people talking about issues with emotion is better than not talking about them at all. The town meetings have turned into charades, though. The politicians are just spouting their talking points and the protesters their, er, shouting points. I haven’t seen much dialogue. While the protesters have been rude and obnoxious, the politicians seem to just keep going with their canned speeches.

    I have to say Obama’s comments yesterday “I don’t want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess” bugged me. He is saying people who disagree with him should just be quiet and get out of the way. Why have town halls at all in that case?

  • jwest

    The one thing I know we can all agree on is how great it is to be alive in the post-racial, post-partisan wonderland of Barack Obama’s America.

    What is all the fuss about healthcare? Why would Republicans distort anything in Pelosi’s plan? It’s not like it’s something truly important – like school lunches or social security.

    Remember when Republican were going to make “Draconian cuts”?

    Children would have been starving in the streets and senior citizens would have been thrown out in the snow on Christmas Eve if Democrats hadn’t stopped their evil plan.

  • Dave_Schuler

    It is absolutely NOT necessary to give the minority a greater voice than they actually have by holding these stupid town hall meetings. Make them have a million wild idiot march in Washington or something. They can’t and you all know it.

    I think you misunderstand the purpose of the townhall meetings. They’re intended to provide a figleaf for politicians who are planning to implement an overhaul of the healthcare system over their constituents’ objections.

    My own view is that they should abandon the townhall meetings and be willing to take their rewards or licks at the polls. My guess is that they’ll be re-elected come what may.

    Although stranger things have happened. For example, chairman of House Ways and Means Dan Rostenkowski was defeated by a Republican unknown without experience, credentials, budget, or even much in the way of wits. He was darn near lynched by his own overwhelmingly Democratic constituents.

  • AustinRoth

    The underlying point of the initial point, that people truly do care about this issue and that there are real and strong emotions about it is a very valid one.

    Agitator groups from both side try all the time to drum up false passions movements for or against whatever their current cause is. Normally, they get a only a small group of semi-professional protesters, as everyone else is too busy with their daily life.

    This is obviously different. Complain all you want about which side is using which group to recruit people to their side of the argument, but the people are responding.

    Last point. Jwest, despite himself, did make a very good point. It was not very long ago at all that the Democrats and the Left were quite adamant about the the responsibility the majority party (at that time the Republicans) had to listen to and accommodate the minoroty party and their supporters, and not create a tyranny of the majority.

    It is more than hypocritical to say the Left controls all of the government now, so they can do whatever they damn well please, and the Right, the Republicans, and their supporters should ‘just get out of the way’.

    • Lit3Bolt

      @ jwest and AR –

      It’s not hypocritical to hope the Democrats pass something. Much of the agenda of the Bush Administration could never have passed without solid and reliable Democratic support. Our anger was reserved for whoever supported those agendas, luminaries such as HRC and John Kerry included among them. So the Bush and Republican “majority” owed a great deal to the Democrats, and in return, they got….nothing. THAT was the betrayal on part of the Republicans.

      Now that we have a Democratic majority, however, it’s suddenly time for minority rule by Republicans. So when Republicans are in the majority, they rule (with Democratic support). When Republicans are in the minority, they rule (with Democratic support). See why only Democrats cherish “bipartisanship?” They can’t get anything done without they say-so of their most “moderate” members. So maybe the Republicans are on to something with all the pogroms for party loyalty and many, many different “you’re with us or against us” purity tests. At least they don’t have to kowtow to their moderates, who work with the enemy.

  • jwest


    The day of reckoning is coming for a large group of Democrats that were swept into power in conservative districts, along with those who are in swing districts that traditionally suffer when the party in power takes a beating.

    Midterm elections tend to have a pendulum effect that swing in proportion to the perceived change of the Presidential election.

    Next November is going to be a really bad time to be a Democrat hoping to hold on to seat in congress.

  • casualobserver

    Yes, as Prof Elrod himself lectured yesterday, these “protestors” are largely “old folks”. The reason the Dems are so successful in galvanizing the independent voter behind them of late is that because the independents know full well that old folks routinely jump out of their rocking chairs to protest things just for the hell of it. They make the radicals of the 60’s look like pikers when it comes to cognitive dissonance against the establishment.

  • CStanley

    “I don’t want the folks who created the mess do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess”

    While it’s a good populist line to fire up the base, I have a lot of problems with this too.

    I don’t necessarily agree that he’s telling all opponents of the reform bills to shut up and get out of the way, as the way he worded it clearly is directed at corporate healthcare interests. It does create a general sense though that he doesn’t want to actually debate the merits of the plan anymore, though.

    The bigger problems I have with that statement are:
    1. He’s been telling industry all along that if they come to the table in good faith, he’ll work with them- but now he’s demagoguing and demonizing them.
    2. Even though he’s not explicitly saying that all opponents should be silenced, he’s clearly playing into the meme that protesters are astroturfed by industry sponsored groups.
    3. In terms of ‘who created the mess’, although his leftwing base believes this is the insurance companies, there’s plenty of blame to go around, including to the federal govt itself which has interfered in the market in various ways that prevent a competitive market and failed to intervene in positive ways. Plus, the biggest cost problem is with the current govt programs, so again the govt itself has to own up to its own responsibilities in that regard.

  • President Obama isn’t fooling me. He’s very frustrated. I think he thought that his convincing win would have made it much easier to pass sweeping reforms. But like many American presidents find out, campaigning is one thing, governing is another. So President Obama’s fire up the base bit to me came off as blowing off steam to sympathetic ears. It may have felt good (and relived a little stress) but in the end, really doesn’t mean much.

    President Obama is govening a country that is suffering big time economically. And “base politics”, platitudes, and speeches won’t fix it. Is Republican leadership helping? No. Is Democratic leadership helping? No. Everyone in Washington is still playing politics. Like it’s the Game Of Life board game. Well I hate to break it to ya Beltway Boys and Girls, folks are going to lash out rather spontaneously or not. This isn’t about 2010 or 2012. It’s about the country! President Obama, Republican leaders, and Democratic leaders should be meeting everyday WORKING IT OUT. Right now, all sides are dead wrong and immature.

  • Kastanj

    “He’s been telling industry all along that if they come to the table in good faith, he’ll work with them- but now he’s demagoguing and demonizing them.”

    They’re not acting in good faith. The PhRMA people demanded that the bill ensured the insurers that they would only be obliged to help people with the most profitable problems. Then their representative bragged about the deal in the NYT, pretty much rubbing the nose of Obama’s base in it. That was the last straw.

    “Even though he’s not explicitly saying that all opponents should be silenced, he’s clearly playing into the meme that protesters are astroturfed by industry sponsored groups.”

    That’s not a meme but a fact. The issue is *how many* are sponsored and instigated by industry organizations and think-tanks, “Armey’s army” as I like to call them.

    But otherwise I agree that Obama should be more specific and elaborate regarding whom are responsible for the mess, and why.

  • americansilentmajority

    The “debate” surrounding healthcare reform is beginning to become exactly what the healthcare profiteers wanted. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies prayed for a left-right “you’re either with us or agin us” throwdown. Instead of an actual discourse conducted by moderates, we have a Charles Rangel and Jim DeMint power struggle. The struggle is complete with town hall theatrics to reinforce the perception of a stalemate.

    Believe me, a stalemate is just what healthcare profiteers wanted.

    Moderates should be ashamed. We should be ashamed because we don’t force our elected officials to do the hard work of compromise. In a legitimate debate, teabaggers worried about out-year deficits might be assured cost cutting would reduce government spending. That same debate might also produce a plan which would reduce the obscene wealth redistribution which is our current healthcare system. Left wingers would then be forced to at least consider a bi-partisan plan.

    Moderates better get off the couch and start guiding this debate. The price for inaction is the economic destruction of our country.

  • JSpencer

    President Obama won the election largely on healthcare reform. ~ Father_Time

    I believe that statement to be true, which is why the issue needs to be taken seriously by both sides, in a constructive sense, not an obstructive sense. There has always been room for people to engage in the healthcare reform process, but naysaying is not engaging. The democrats have understood the need for healthcare reform going back quite a long time now, while the republicans have been content with the status quo. If all the R’s have to offer is heel dragging, someone please explain to me how that “contribution” deserves to be taken seriously? Why did they ignore the issue when they had power to do something about it for the first 8 years of this century? I just get tired of all the disingenuous posturing, which is really nothing more than a willingness to let things continue sliding downward… everything but costs that is.

  • Dave_Schuler

    They make the radicals of the 60’s look like pikers when it comes to cognitive dissonance against the establishment.

    Heck, they are the radicals of the 60’s.

  • Father_Time


    BS. Their “constituents” are a minority wild idiot coalition of election losers who are far to stupid to realize that they are being manipulated by those whom are gradually removing their ability to have any healthcare at all.

    I also hear that there is a LARGE NUMBER of military retired right wing wackos siding with the insurance companies in these TH meetings. Wish I was on the government retirement dole, (after 20 years service), with government health benefits so I could complain about those who wish they had healthcare benefits taking money away from my COLA increase. I never did like lifers anyway. Something screwy about them.

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