August 6, 2009

Well-Dressed Grass Roots? Just can't be!

Marc Comtois

Polls continue to indicate President Obama's and the Democrats' health care reform is in serious trouble. And the Dems are worried...and paranoid. They haven't been able to drum up support with their much-touted netroots apparatus and are instead encountering protests against their proposals. But it couldn't be that their grand plan is wrong...instead, the Democrats are claiming this opposition is nothing more than "astroturf." (Kinda like the Tea Parties, I guess). California Senator Barbara Boxer thinks that well-dressed protesters to Obamacare must be put-ups. Local progressives theorize that the media is conspiring ("which side are you on"?) against President Obama. And, as Michael Barone summarizes:

So now we have the spectacle of the White House trying to demonize the health insurers which it was not so long ago romancing and trying to label as “mobs” and “astroturf” voters who show up at town meetings and voice opposition to Democratic health care proposals—this from a president who during his campaign urged his supporters to respond to those opposing him by “get[ting] in their faces.” These seem like desperation tactics to me. Most Americans are pretty happy with their health insurance because, for one reason, they can choose a different plan every year. It's not irrational for them to fear getting shoved into a government plan which, to save money, will ration care.
Barone acknowledges that, usually, there is more enthusiasm by those on the outside looking in, but he thinks there's something more going on, too.
One of the less commented on features of our politics in this decade has been the huge expansion of voter turnout, from 105 million in 2000 to 122 million in 2004 and 131 million in 2008. These increases were generated by campaign organizations (including the brilliantly targeted efforts of the Obama campaign) but were also a spontaneous expression of enthusiasm—both for and against George W. Bush in 2004, for Barack Obama and against Bush in 2008.

You don’t do an unnatural thing like going to a congressman’s town hall meeting to express opposition to a health care proposal just because you got a robocall from someone from Cigna or Aetna. They don’t dragoon poor people into buses the way Acorn does. You go because you feel really, really strongly about some issue. There are, after all, organizers on both sides. The organizers favoring the Democratic health care plans aren’t able to generate any significant. The organizers opposing the Democratic health care plans are. And, as in the 2008 Obama campaign, a lot of people are turning out of their own spontaneous accord.

Democrats/Progressives are projecting their organizational model onto the average citizen. Believe it or not, folks can get upset enough all on their own: we all don't require "community activists" to identify our problems for us. When asked the generic question if health care needs to be reformed, the majority of Americans say "yes" (myself included). But this isn't what we have in mind. Instead, keep it simple by focusing on two words: portability and competition. Then work from there.

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Looking at these various "Town Hall" meetings and the criticisms of ObamaCare directed from the audience to the politician(s) in the font of the room(s), I conclude the following:


(a) these are spontaneous bursts of public outrage at the Dems' attempt to cram government health care down our throats

or (b) Republicans have, all of a sudden, grown a highly sophisticated network of grass-roots-looking activists, capable of springing into action simultaneously at multiple locations.

If I were a Dem insider I'd feel much more threatened by (b) than I would be about (a).

Posted by: brassband at August 6, 2009 10:28 AM

It's like the liberal who said: "I don't know how Reagan could have won, nobody I know voted for him".

These elitists just can't fathom any difference of opinion to the degree that any opposition to their programs, and to their sacred leader conjures up paranoid images of conspiracy.

Tom W., I think it's a, but I agree, the left fears it's b.

Posted by: George at August 6, 2009 3:26 PM

While I do not doubt that many do not agree with the current idea of healthcare reform, I do question the legitimacy of many of these protestors at townhall meetings. In response to brassbands comments about "republicans suddenly growing a highly sophisticated grass roots network", it is clear that many conservative pac's and groups are in fact bussing in people and handing out "talking points" scripts. To declare these protests as real is a stretch. I am worried about what the planned reform will do to my healthcare, however something does need to be fixed in regards to healthcare. I would love for other solutions to be debated or even discussed. To think the democrats wont eventually shove this down our throats is foolish, efforts should be spent offering alternatives or outlining how certain portions of the mystery plan are ineffective. These protests are a distraction, it serves no one to have groups of people yelling and causing a scene (many not even at their own representatives). Many groups are doing this, and i have a feeling many that read this blog may also support these groups. Lets not be childish and think that all these incidents are purely concerned citizens reacting. In fact, theres nothing wrong with groups organizing in this way. Kool aid and propaganda go both ways, it should be left up to the democrats to look foolish and petty. Im embarrassed to have people conducting themselves in this way to get media attention and monetary contributions, conduct normal discussions and use reason to destroy the movement for passing this bill. Many of us are sick of the glenn becks, hannitys, and malkins of the world. While they are making millions and have decent healthcare, it is our lives at stake not theres. Why take cues from clowns like that? stand up for principles and ideas in a constructive, intelligent way as we should. These actions will only allow the democrats to slam more and more down our throats. Follow the money trail and see where it goes, we are being fleeced on both ends.

Posted by: steadman at August 6, 2009 4:28 PM

>Tom W., I think it's a, but I agree, the left fears it's b.

That was Brassband, not I.

I think that it's closer to (a), but with a little (b) mixed in, but not from the GOP / insurance industry apparatus, but from the "viral" network that's been building since the Tea Party's last April.

It's quite amusing to watch the Democrats / liberals all in a twitter (pun intended) over being on the receiving end of the kind of "community organizing" and "direct action" that they've been dishing out for years.

Reminds me a bit of the scene in the movie Patton when George C. Scott / Patton, after defeating the Germans in one battle, says something to the effect of "Rommel, I read your book you bastard!"

Now that the right has started reading Alinsky, the Midwest Academy and learned about ACORN, we're reading the bastard Democrats book on our way to defeating those collectivists!

Posted by: Tom W at August 6, 2009 6:55 PM

This is nothing new. The right has been well organized for a long time, and is just adopting these tactics to try to hide that they come from big corporate interests. I guess the Marquis of Queensbury rules have been waived.
BTW, I didn't understand what Barbara Boxer was getting at, either. Spare us the Streisand act, Senator.

Posted by: rhody at August 7, 2009 1:11 AM

>This is nothing new. The right has been well organized for a long time, and is just adopting these tactics to try to hide that they come from big corporate interests.

Nice attempt at "turnspeak" Rhody.

A redux of Hillary's "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Meanwhile, in reality:

Hillary, Soros, ACORN, Apollo Project, Secretary of State Project, SEIU etc. etc. etc. have been busy ...

Posted by: Tom W at August 7, 2009 9:06 AM

Gee Tom, I'd pretend that the right gets picked on, too, but I don't have access to those funny cigarettes right now.
The right took the left to school for years re: political organization and fundraising. Now that some of the lessons finally took hold...teacher's not happy.

Posted by: rhody at August 9, 2009 2:41 AM
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