GOP Townhall Strategy: Wise or Wacky?
This is a very good article from CQ Politics on the GOP strategy to disrupt town hall meetings. On the face of it all, it appears to be a very effective GOP move to shut down the discussion of health care reform and psychologically appear to represent the majority. Rove must be very proud. It is a classic GOP move that dates back to the Bush/Gore recount (and beyond.) Hmm-let's see, how did that end? Did these tactics work? Oh, yeah, they certainly did!
So why stop now? It's simple, really: fire up (or strategically plant) some angry people who never liked President Obama to begin with (and who get most of their news from the Limbaughs and Becks of the world) and empower them (afterall, they feel so helpless knowing a black, Kenyan-born citizen is our president!) by sending them on a mission to disrupt discussions on health care. Give them some talking points (no silly, not on what the Republican ideas for Health Care might be!) on how to change the subject, yell over people, manipulate the setting to muffle any pro-reform voices, and intimidate the speaker at any cost.
Bingo. Republican leaders and radio/TV talk hosts will pump this up as a grassroots effort. They will continue their winks and nods, careful not to criticize even the most violent of signs (some featuring politicians hanging.) A GOP representative even cheered the protests on, happily comparing these animated town hall hijackings to lynchings.) They will keep pretending the lobbyist machines did not orchestrate this. The insurance companies love this! Republicans hope this will crush President Obama!
Only one problem: what if this goes too far? What if the protest signs become more graphic, unsettling? What if the threats turn even uglier? What if the hate talk crosses into racist turf? How far over the line will the leadership allow these "grassroots protesters" to go? If they don't start to tone down the extremist messages out there, this Rove-blessed strategy could easily backfire, or worse, have terribly violent consequences.
WASHINGTON - The Earth-scorching August firefight over health care has given rise to questions about the point at which stifling civil discussion damages the democratic process.
All across the country, conservative opponents are clamoring to disrupt town-hall meetings about the proposed overhaul of the nation’s health care system, using GOP-generated talking points to shout down Democratic congressmen who attempt to explain the plan.
The Constitution protects their right to speak freely, but Democrats say that they are limiting rather than promoting an open exchange of ideas.
Some experts on political organization say that despite the disruption of Democratic-run events — and divided public feelings on the health care overhaul — the shout-down strategy betrays an essential weakness on the Republican side, not a strength.
Nonetheless, the high-stakes battle has pressed allies of a president who built his narrative around his work as a community organizer into a campaign to delegitimize the organizers of the protests and their means of expression.
“Organized mobs across the country are intimidating lawmakers, disrupting events, and silencing discussions about the change our country needs,” one Obama campaign aide wrote in an e-mail to supporters in Michigan...