For eight years, the Democrats were in the opposition in the United States, with a Republican president and a Republican majority in Congress. The tide has completely turned. The Democrats have the White House and Congress. President Obama has made it clear that he is not bandying slogans about when he talks about "change." The United States government now owns General Motors. It is talking about what amounts to a phased in nationalisation of health insurance. The massive bailout comes at a time when our country faces a recession that is like nothing in anyone's memory except the elderly with memories of the 1930's.
Millions of Americans are not willing to be bought off with a stimulus package that will pay a few bills. They want a manner of governance that will be fiscally sound. The American people are truly putting the nation first in these troubled times.
In the national dialogue about our nation's future, it is to be hoped that civility would facilitate the exchange of conflicting ideas in the hope that they can be sorted out and harmonised. Alas, this has not happened. Decent people with a stake in our nation's future have been vilified with the rhetoric of demonisation.
The White House has put up an an announcement on its web site that sounds eerily like inviting citizens to report each other as they attempt to rush through a health plan that is vast, complex and far reaching in its consequences for the country. The announcement reads as follows.
"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to [email protected].
There is a certain sense among ideologues, and revolutionaries that their vision of the future is so beautiful that extraordinary means are justified in bringing that vision to physical fruition. People who "only want the best for you" can be shrill and forceful. The White House has now weighed in with advice on how to turn town meetings around from being a public relations disaster for the White House.
Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina was blunt in his advice to ground troops at town hall meetings.
“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” Jim Messina is quoted as saying.
How are the street activists taking the "get tough" signals coming from the White House ?
Evidence from video news coverage is not encouraging. Assaultive behavior and packing meetings with Obamacare supporters has been caught on video. Fox News reports as follows on the ugly turn meetings have taken.
"A freelance videographer was roughed up in an altercation, which damaged his camera equipment and glasses, and at least one man was treated for minor injuries after a scuffle left his shirt partially torn from his body.
"That's the most violent anyone has been towards me," Mark Bishop told WTSP-TV. "It was surprising, to say the least."
In Mehlville, Mo., St. Louis police arrested six people, some on assault charges, outside another forum that was billed as a meeting on aging but was attended by activists on both sides of the health care debate.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the police showed up toward the end of the forum held by Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan. One conservative activist, interviewed at a local emergency room where he was being treated for injuries, said he was attacked by some of the individuals who were arrested as he passed out "Don't tread on me" flags. "
A public forum is supposed to be just that. Frustration is mounting as sales presentations by Democratic Representatives are mislabeled as town meetings. In the video below, protesters are furious about seeing Obama supporters being led through a back door while they were left waiting for hours outside of a 'town hall meeting that was allegedly stacked by meeting organisers.
My dialogue with Obama's supporters is through blogging. Some of what I hear from the other side is downright chilling. Consider the following article "Free Speech or Treason." . The contents of the article more than live up to its shrill title.Not since the John Birch Society held a meeting in my home town have I heard such demonising rhetoric. The article reads in part as follows.
"There is only one thing that I know of that Republicants are very good at. They are very disciplined when in attack mode, and they know how to generate fear, anger, and hatred. They have become masters at framing issues and have built up a huge and very effective propaganda machine that includes most media. The Fox network is entirely dedicated to this propaganda as is most of Hate Radio, and the internet is awash with hateful fear mongering. They used that machine to mobilize support for an invasion of Iraq, a country that had not attacked us, had no terrorist ties and had no weapons of mass destruction to threaten anyone with. They used the machine to nearly ruin the careers of the Dixie Chicks for saying that they were ashamed that Bush came from Texas. So much for first amendment rights. They have continually harassed and threatened abortion doctors, and after Rush called George Tiller a baby killer, one of these angry nut jobs went to Tiller’s church and slaughtered him in front of his family. The machine has been attacking Obama long before he was nominated, and now that he is our president, the Republicants have gone all out to oppose him and anything that he tries to get done. Rush said he hopes Obama fails and the machine has been cranked up to bring about that failure. The Republicants opposed the stimulus, which successfully defused the worst economic crisis since the depression. They opposed the energy program and severely weakened it so their corporate sponsors can continue polluting, and now they are spreading lies, telling the elderly that the government wants to kill them,sending counterfeit letters to congressmen, and doing everything they can to thwart any reform, so their Insurance Industry cronies can maintain the status Quo. Using the Internet they are organizing protestors to disrupt health care meetings, so people can’t hear the truth."
In sports, it is helpful to use instant replay to understand how the game is played. This article by a blogger named "Altruist" created a monolith to which he imputes a host of ills and evils. Everything from Fox news to call in talk shows are labeled "Hate Radio". There are Nazi and Klan radio programs on the internet. I don't know what Altruist can call them if he trots out his worst label for Fox News.
In a short section of a paragraph, the invasion of Iraq, the boycott of the Dixie Chicks and the murder of an abortion doctor are wrapped up in the same stinging indictment and imputed to the entire legitimate republican opposition.
In the midst of a deep recession, Altruist declares the stimulus package to be a success. He is dismissive of the concerns of those who oppose environmental legislation. When there is discussion about "rationing health care" it is completely legitimate to ask if the lives of the elderly might be thereby shortened.
The way a democracy works is that people with assorted concerns and conflicting interests hammer them out in a legislative forum. To label the exercise of free speech "treason" poisons political discourse.
I could not make up a better case study for demonising the opposition than did Altruist. i thank him for making my job so easy.
The Republicans are not creating opposition. There are legitimate questions being asked at dinner tables, car pools and barbecues all across America. For those who believe in a cause, it is not only a right but a duty to advocate and mobilise a consensus.
President Obama and his supporters proudly defended his humble beginnings as a community activist in the official Obama narrative. Having indeed suffered a major electoral setback, the Republicans have appealed to the court of public opinion, which is unlike Congress in having no summer recess.
The Democrats can not have it both ways. All across America, they are facing community organisers who may indeed have studied the same instructional literature as Obama. In a perfect world, president Obama and his inner circle would feel a sense of psychological kinship with those holding signs and waving "Don't Tread on Me." flags. Who knows. they may even feel a twinge of nostalgia for an activist youth.
But that is history. Obama the former community organiser is now President. The protesters are in the street beneath his window. Life is a wheel. Get used to it.
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