As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Is the media turning against the right-wing astroturf mob?

First, I wanted to thank my good friend dday for giving me a guest gig on his site during his marital-bliss-induced absence, and join all of you in giving him my best wishes for married life.

With all due felicitations out of the way--to business.

It seems, finally, that after much harassment of Congressional Democrats trying to engage voters in healthcare town halls (see: Lloyd Doggett of Texas, an anonymous freshman physically assaulted, death threats against Congressman Brad Miller of North Carolina, and any other similar incident that has been written about or caught on video lately), it seems that the intentional astroturf strategy of disruption, "rattling" and artificial numbers inflation just might be wearing thin with people and journalists who actually think that there's some value to the Democratic process of actually having constituents be able to ask questions of their Representatives.

Even in more conservative papers.

I submit as evidence yesterday's coverage in the Napa Valley Register (California wine country):

Monday night’s health care forum in Napa grew unruly and wild, with some critics of the current health care proposals seeking to derail the event, harming their cause and nearly destroying a meaningful forum on a critical topic for Napa and the nation.

The display was unwelcome — and unsuccessful if it was meant to move health care reform supporters toward considering the concerns of the critics. Several callers to the Register on Tuesday reported they were repulsed by the aggressive tactics of some members of the crowd.
To the degree the catcalls, chants and shouts were organized — and it appears from events around the country that they were — we strongly suggest that the organizers find more constructive ways to get their message out.


Monday’s event was out of character for Napa County political clashes, even hotly contested ones. In our view, most politically active people here have better sense than to debase the debate that way.

Unbridled anger is not a substitute for intelligent discussion. Catcalls are not replacements for hard questions and criticism.

For health care reform critics or anyone in political life to get their message across effectively, our message is that they should choose a more substantive and respectful approach.

Keep in mind: the Napa Valley Register endorsed McCain. (h/t to Mark Kleiman on that one). The objective of the birthbaggers here was to force Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson underground in the same way that Brad Miller has now been restricted to holding no public town hall events and restricting access to one-on-one constituent meetings--and they have succeeded, to some degree: Rep. Thompson is now going to only hold telephone town halls.

This isn't a policy issue. Everyone has the right to show up and make their opinions known. In fact, I dare say that everyone should have the obligation to stand up and make their opinions known. This isn't about that. This is, instead, a concrete effort to make Democratic members of Congress actively fear for their safety so they will be unable to publicly promote the agenda of reform. This goes far beyond disagreement on issues: this is an overt challenge to the fundamental structure of democracy, which is based on the right to have access to one's Representatives.

Ultimately, of course, the blame for this lies with the leadership of the Conservative movement: Fox News and the entire AM dial. They are speaking to an increasingly shrinking base, but managing to convince that base that the Democratic healthcare plan will result in forced euthanasia--just like they believe that Orly Taitz has the original genuine Kenyan birth certificate, or just like Glenn Beck believes that the Cars for Clunkers program is just a tool to let the feds take over your computer. (Didn't know about that one? It's for real.)

The problem is that an increasingly small minority that is convinced that must fear for its very existence will, as a method of fighting for what it believes is its own survival, become increasingly violent. And if anyone gets hurt in these protests--and God forbid that mean that any elected official gets injured or worse--the blame will lie with those who filled the proverbial passion bucket of the right-wing extremist base to overflowing.

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