We’re seeing more and more YouTube video of hostile constituents berating members of Congress to kill health care reform. Last month was the infamous Rep. Mike Castle town hall where the crowd demanded the congressman say that President Obama was not born in the USA, but also featured rants against “socialized medicine.” Then this past Saturday the online hub of the “Birther” conspiracy theorists, WorldNetDaily, compiled more video of angry disrespectful outbursts deriding pending health care legislation at events featuring Sen. Arlen Specter, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep, Lloyd Doggett, under the puffed-up header “See rebellion at grass roots [sic].”
Is this a bona fide grassroots rebellion? Not exactly. As ThinkProgress’ Lee Fang uncovered on Friday, the lobbyist-run national conservative group FreedomWorks is promoting an instructional memo titled “Rocking The Town Halls” which advises right-wing activists to “Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half … Be Disruptive Early And Often … Try To ‘Rattle Him,’ Not Have An Intelligent Debate…”
Bloggers were quick to call this childish tactic out. Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen said, “Who needs civility and intelligent discourse when we have confused mobs of far-right activists organized by corporate lobbyists?” D-Day dubbed it, “The Sticking Fingers In Ears And Yelling ‘La-La-La’ Strategy.” Digby astutely noted this is merely recently history repeating: “This is predictable. After all, they are following the 1994 playbook and they did the same thing then [to kill health care reform].”
Where did conservative leaders come up with such a strategy? From one of those dastardly Chicago community organizers, Saul Alinsky, who famously wrote in “Rules For Radicals:” (emphasis added)
…if you have organized a vast, mass-based people’s organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power … if your organization is small in numbers, then…conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does … if your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place.
The right-wingers certainly don’t have the numbers. Poll after poll after poll shows strong support for the main planks in the health care legislation pending in House and Senate: the choice of a public plan, the requirement for employers to provide insurance or help pay for a public plan, and the surtax on the very wealthiest to also help pay for reform.
But conspiracy-minded right-wingers certainly have fury and commitment, and clearly want a few YouTube videos to distort the perception of public opinion.
As citizens (I admit it, they are citizens!), they have every right to speak their mind and try to persuade and attempt to create any perception they choose.
But we also have the right to prove they don’t have the numbers to back up their noise.
Rep Doggett handled it just right today, releasing a statement that recognized he did not face anything remotely like an authentic representation of grassroots opinion:
This mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties, did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard. And this appears to be part of a coordinated, nationwide effort. What could be more appropriate for the “party of no” than having its stalwarts drowning out the voices of their neighbors by screaming “just say no!”
One reporter properly put the anger in context, Politico’s Glenn Thrush: “At this point, these protests appear to be relatively small yet vocal, organized and encouraged by larger national conservative organizations. Like the tea parties, they feed on themselves, and benefit from the omnipresent video cameras and easy YouTube links that make the rounds in blogs (including ours). Democrats believe some of these tactics could backfire, especially when protesters start hanging members of Congress in effigy.”
This is not the heartland of America. This is not the political center. This is not the reachable swing vote.
These are the bitter dead-enders, the half of the Republican electorate who does not accept President Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy, led by lobbyists and Birthers.
They do not have serious critiques or constructive suggestions.
They have run-of-the-mill distortions like the false claim that President said he will end private insurance and the ludicrous smears like the government will kill your grandma,
This is a mob, not a majority.
And it doesn’t take much to get the right-wing mob foaming at the mouth. In fact, it’s the best way to know you’re doing something right.