If This Be Un-American, Make The Most Of It
In what I can only call an extraordinarily disturbing Op-Ed in today’s USA Today, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer leveled an attack against those who are protesting the Democrats’ efforts to “reform” the health care system:
However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue. These tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted “Just say no!” drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.
These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.
Pelosi and Hoyer — or, to put it more accurately, the staffer who wrote this drivel for Pelosi and Hoyer go on to claim that Americans strongly support health insurance reform, and more specifically support the plan currently being debated in Congress. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the protests themselves weren’t an indication of this, then all one has to do is look at the polls which show that, at best, the public is deeply divided when it comes to the specifics of HR 3200, that most Americans like the health insurance they have now, most do not agree with Pelosi’s recent characterization of insurance companies as “villains, and that a majority believes middle-class tax cuts are more important than health care reform.
The argument that there is a “consensus” on health care reform in general, or on the merits of HR 3200 specifically, is just a bald-faced lie.
Even worse then getting the facts wrong, though, is the fact that Pelosi and Hoyer have decided to characterize those who disagree with them as “un-American.” They and their supporters will, no doubt, claim that the label is only meant to apply to those who have been disruptive, however it’s worth noting that they never managed to find it necessary to say the same thing when the disruptive tactics were coming from the left, as demonstrated by this Pelosi town hall from January 2006:
Dozens of heckling, sign-toting anti-war protesters tried to take center stage at the congresswomen’s town hall forum on national security — calling for an immediate de-funding of the Iraq war and impeachment proceedings against President George Bush.
Pelosi never summoned help from police or security. She negotiated with the hecklers and at times even thanked the protesters for their advocacy and enthusiasm.
“It’s always exciting,” she told reporters after the meeting. “This is democracy in action. I’m energized by it, frankly.”
So, a town hall filled with disruptive Code Pink demonstrators is “democracy in action,” but a town hall filled with opponents of ObamaCare is Un-American. Or at least that’s how the calculus works in Nancy Pelosi’s universe.
Glenn Reynolds put it best in a piece yesterday in the Washington Examiner:
Funny how fast the worm — or maybe it’s the pitchfork — has turned. Now that we’re seeing genuine expressions of populist discontent, not put together by establishment packagers on behalf of an Officially Sanctioned Aggrieved Group, we’re suddenly hearing complaints of “mob rule” and demands for civility.Civility is fine, but those who demand it should show it. The Obama administration — and its corps of willing supporters in the press and the punditry — has set the tone, and they are now in a poor position to complain.
Whether they like it or not — and the evidence increasingly tends toward “not” — President Obama and his handlers need to accept that this is a free country, one where expressions of popular discontent take place outside the electoral process, and always have. (Remember
Martin Luther King?)What historians like Gordon Wood and Pauline Maier call “out-of-doors political activity” is an old American tradition, and in the past things have been far more “boisterous” than they are today.
Rather than demonizing today’s protesters, perhaps they might want to reflect on how flimflams and thuggishness have managed to squander Obama’s political capital in a few short months, and ponder what they might do to regain the trust of the millions of Americans who are no longer inclined to give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve been critical over the past week of some of the more sensational of the town hall protesters tactics (see here and here specifically). I’ve denounced those like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the folks at Americans for Prosperity who have decided that the way to fight HR 3200 is to lie about it. However, the fact that I think their tactics are wrong, or counter-productive, doesn’t mean they’re un-American, or that they should be compared to Nazis, or that they’re racist.
There’s a phrase that comes to mind, and it’s one that we should all be familiar with:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Hoyer should be ashamed of themselves for calling the exercise of a precious Constitutional right “Un-American.”
C/P: Below The Beltway