On Jan. 20, 2009, after an eight year run, dissent ceased to be "the
highest form of patriotism."
Now, according to those who once assured us that even violent protests
against the war in Iraq were patriotic, to express dissatisfaction with
President Obama's plans for health care "reform" is mob rule, or worse.
Protestors are "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town
meeting on health care," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca).
The Democratic National Committee produced an ad which describes most of
those who've been attending town meetings as "an angry mob" funded by
special interest groups.
Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstine described the protestors as
An angry mob of political terrorists brandishing Nazi paraphernalia is
certainly something to worry about. So liberals who went ballistic when
President Bush considered establishing a hot line where citizens could
report suspected terrorist activity applaud President Obama for
establishing a Web site at which patriotic Americans can snitch on those
of their neighbors who express unflattering sentiments about the health
If this sounds a lot like the enemies list President Nixon kept, White
House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says not to worry. The administration
won't keep your name on file. Just your email address.
Mr. Nixon wanted to govern on behalf of what he called the "Silent
Majority." National Review Editor Rich Lowry notes that Mr. Obama wants
a silent majority, too, but with a twist. "Obama wants the majority
that opposes or questions his policies to stay silent."
So far they haven't. Attendance at town meetings this August has been
three to five times normal size, with two thirds or more of those
attending expressing concerns about Mr. Obama's health care reform
Some have been rude. At a number of meetings lawmakers have been
interrupted or shouted down. There is no excusing this behavior. But
most -- though fearful and angry -- have behaved well.
At a town meeting in Long Island, a man (who identified himself as a
registered Democrat) asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) why,
since it took President Obama six months to decide what kind of dog to
get for his daughters, he wants to rush through a massive restructuring
of health care in a few weeks. (Rep. Hoyer responded with a long
discourse on the Erie Canal, completed in 1825.)
The answer, of course, is that the more details people learn about
President Obama's health care plan, the less they like it. A Rasmussen
poll July 28 indicated 47 percent of likely voters supported the plan,
with 49 percent opposed. In a poll June 29, 50 percent supported the
plan, 45 percent were opposed.
Among those with intense feelings, the gap is much larger. Just 25
percent of respondents strongly support the president's proposed
reforms, Mr. Rasmussen said, while 41 percent strongly oppose them.
The attendance at town meetings reflects this intensity. People want to
know how much the president's plan will cost, from whence will come the
money to pay for it, and how it will affect Medicare, or the private
insurance plans they have now.
Democrats are uncomfortable answering these questions. To avoid meeting
face to face with constituents, some are conducting "town meetings" by
telephone, where they can control what questions they are asked. Some
are holding meetings in small venues, and stacking them with supporters,
so most protestors will be turned away. Others are cancelling their
Demonizing your constituents and then hiding from them seems a curious
way to win over swing voters. So far, it isn't working. In a Rasmussen
poll Aug. 7, 49 percent of respondents said the protestors reflected the
genuine concerns of their neighbors. Just 37 percent thought the
protests were ginned up by special interest groups.
"Would it not be easier...for the government to dissolve the people and
elect another?," asked the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, a devoted
Communist, when people in East Germany revolted in July, 1953.
Democrats today seem to share that sentiment. But it's harder to
implement in a democracy than in a dictatorship.