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Pelosi Calls Union "Un-American"

Monday, August 10, 2009, 22:17 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Well, not directly, but by implication. What the House Speaker actually said in USA Today early this morning was this, in reference to the increasing boisterousness of constituents who oppose President Obama’s medical insurance plan (emphasis mine):

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.

Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

According to Pelosi’s office*, the op-ed was actually an indirect rebuke to the Service Employees International Union, which is calling on its members to attend "town hall" meetings and—well, let’s see how they phrase it (again, emphasis mine):

Healthcare Town Hall Forum with Congressman Jim Himes

August 06, 2009, 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

Stamford Senior Center, 888 Washington Blvd., Stamford, CT

Legislative Forum

Purpose: Congressional representatives are coordinating forums on the health insurance crisis around the state for constituents to come share their personal stories and hear proposed solutions being debated in Washington, DC.

Agenda: Congressman Jim Himes (D-4), who has already been hard at work organizing his peers in Washington DC for health insurance reform, will speak and listen to our concerns.

Action: Opponents of reform are organizing counter-demonstrators to speak at this and several congressional town halls on the issue to defend the status quo. It is critical that our members with real, personal stories about the need for access to quality, affordable care come out in strong numbers to drown out their voices.

(*Note: Pelosi’s office didn’t really say this. But if they weren’t unthinking automatons, they would have.)

The kerfuffle about conservative and moderate voters showing up at so-called town hall meetings and getting in the faces of their Congress members and Senators is one that, I must admit, brings a wry smile to my face. I watched the televised campaign speech in which candidate Barack Obama exhorted his followers to "argue with [John McCain supporters] and get in their face." It’s understandable that Obama would be torqued as hell when people who weren’t his followers turned out to be the ones who took his advice.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me admit that I have done my share of protesting over the years. Having demonstrated against capital punishment, abortion, human rights abuses, and domestic violence, I am accustomed to the pre-printed signs, the fiery speakers stoking the crowd, and the orchestrated slogans and chants (organizers of the Take Back the Night march that used to occur annually in Worcester actually handed out chant sheets to march participants, so we’d know what to say, something with which I was not entirely comfortable). It was always my way to stay on the polite, non-confrontational side of the line and let others be the ones to cross it. I’ve never been willing to get arrested for a cause, although I did once get thrown out of Fenway Park for holding up a Jon Lester "K Cancer" sign between innings at a Sox game, sufficiently annoying the person sitting behind me that she complained to security until I was asked to leave, much to the horror of Larry Lucchino, to whom I told the story the next day. But even then, I wasn’t arrested. The only confrontations I’ve ever gotten into at protests or demonstrations were started by counter-protesters, like the Worcester Planned Parenthood employee who, imploring me not to enter a campaign event for a pro-life candidate, told me the best thing that could happen to me was to be raped and get pregnant as a result. Yeah, I let that one have it, loudly enough for her and everyone within 50 feet to hear, then I walked in anyway. I won’t pick a fight, but I will fight back.

What is notable is that none of those demonstrations had the same impromptu grassroots feeling of the tax day "Tea Party" I attended last spring, the first truly conservative/libertarian protest I’ve ever attended. (Even the pro-life events in which I’ve participated have always included a strong contingent of feminist, pacifist, and LGBT participants.) I saw no professionally-printed signs, besides one banner procured by the organizers and hung in front of the stage. There were no buses ferrying people in from parts far and wide. No one’s employers gave them time off to go protest. High school political action clubs didn’t encourage participation in the protest. In fact, in talking to people over the course of the two-hour event, I didn’t meet a single person who had ever before protested anything. And believe me, it showed. Their hand-made signs screamed "amateur."

That hasn’t stopped the Pelosis and Stoyers and Reids of the country from hopping on the Obama "manufactured anger" bandwagon, demonstrating the most obvious case of political projection in the history of the republic. Indeed, it takes a special kind of stupid to ignore and belittle an historic groundswell of public opinion and then complain when those ignored and belittled get mad enough to fight back, and loudly.

Here’s my bit of unsolicited advice for Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, President Obama, and their special circle of friends. If you want anyone with an independent thought to take you seriously, you need to stop bitching about random constituents using the same tactics against you that the labor unions who endorse you are using on your behalf. If you have benefited for decades from organized protest on your and your policies’ behalf, you need to suck it up when others organize against you. And if you don’t want a community organizing against you, don’t deify community organizers and then put one at the top of your ticket.

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