Rep. Steve Dreihaus and Rep. Steve Kagan are two of the latest Congressmen to feel the wrath of their constituents over health care reform, cap and trade, and other issues. Meanwhile, the push is on to trivialize and demonize the backlash that’s going on at local town hall meetings. The DNC released a statement blaming Republicans for riling up “angry mobs of a small number of rabid right wing extremists” being bussed in and well-funded by lobbyists. It’s not grassroots, you see, it’s astroturf. (A quick aside: Can we ban the use of the word astroturf by both sides of the political aisle? It’s lame, overused and cliched already, and it’s only been in rotation for a few months.)
In addition to the DNC, you have pundits like Rachel Maddow whining about the “hooliganism” of protesters at the same time the White House releases a video with former ABC reporter Linda Douglass accusing opponents of health care reform of using scare tactics, and specifically targets a spliced-together video that’s gone viral showing President Obama and others in their own words speaking of their desire for a single-payer system.
This is all while the White House health czar has put out a call for reports on health care disinformation on the web. Rhetorical question: what do you think the reaction would have been from the left if President Bush had asked for reports on disinformation on the Patriot Act? It all adds up to a push to paint the very real opposition to health care reform as extremist and imaginary, since no real American could have strong feelings against health care reform, right?
What is left out is that, yes, most Americans know we don’t have a perfect system, and want the costs of health care to go down. That doesn’t then mean that you can assume they all want a costly government health insurance plan to take care of everyone. The fact is that opposition to the government option is very real and very potent. Health care insurance reform supporters (as they’re being re-termed) are overstating the ability of the right to coordinate and organize in the same manner that the left does. I’ve seen the videos and I’ve been to the Tea Parties – by and large, these aren’t paid activists from out of town, these are local folks who have strong concerns about the direction of the country. You would think with the falling poll numbers the left would at least entertain the idea that opposition to their ideas is possible.
But the easier path is to ignore the concerns and paint the opposition as extremist and irrelevant. It’s an approach that shamefully sidesteps any debate on the issues involved with health care reform and goes straight to the line of thought that says, “It’s my way or nothing at all, so just shut up otherwise.” The left seems to have forgotten its own mantra of the last eight years – dissent, I suppose, is only patriotic when it’s a liberal engaging in it. When conservatives do it, it’s just obstructionism and hate. It makes political debates much easier when you can utilize painful black-and-white thinking like this to avoid defending your own ideas and policies.
And in any event, the wailing over the protests is just a tad hypocritical from supporters of a President who told them during the campaign he wanted them to “get in the face” of their friends and neighbors. Aggressive and impassioned campaigning, you see, is only reserved for one side of the fight. But despite what they might say publicly, politicians and pundits recognize that the backlash is real, and that’s why they are fighting back so hard against it and to mischaracterize its reality and the impact on both health care reform and the politicans who vote for it.