Note to the White House and Congress: real, live, ordinary Americans are frustrated and angry and there is nothing “manufactured” about it. The activity you are seeing at town hall meetings across the country is as “grass roots” as it gets and it does not appear to be ending any time soon.
Earlier this year when hundreds of thousands of Americans showed up at hundreds of “tea party” protests being held in over 800 cities and all 50 states, ABC News reported, “The White House says the president is unaware of the tea parties and will hold his own event today.”
Now, when American citizens are showing up at town hall events held by their local congressional representatives to discuss the issue of health care, they are getting plenty of media attention. The same media that largely ignored the hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters at tea parties across the country over the past few months have now discovered the “angry mobs” showing up at town hall meetings.
Patrick Hynes recently cited a new CNN poll which “finds a huge majority of Americans would likely attend such a meeting on the issue of health reform if one was held in their community.”
“According to the poll conducted between July 31 and August 3, seventy-one percent of respondents would attend ‘a town hall meeting or some other public forum where voters get a chance to speak’ to ‘tell [their] member of Congress what [they] think about health care.’ Forty-one percent say they are ‘very likely’ to do so.”
Unlike with the Tax Day Tea Parties, the White House seems to at least be aware of these protesters. Spokesman Robert Gibbs responded to questions about the protesters saying, “I hope people will take a jaundiced eye to what is clearly the Astro Turf nature of so-called grassroots lobbying… which is largely the term for, you know, this is manufactured anger.”
That’s right. The Community Organizer-in-Chief (through Gibbs) is sending a message that says to me if a conservative group lets their members know when and where a town hall meeting is being held, the voices of those citizens don’t matter so much. If those citizens travel to the meetings on busses, they don’t count as authentic. If citizens of various communities across the country are “organized” in any way, the spokesman for the Organizer-in-Chief is discrediting their concerns as “manufactured.”
When Cindy Sheehan and a couple dozen people protested the Iraq War in front of George Bush’s ranch in 2005, they received tons of media attention. When asked about Sheehan and the protesters Bush said, “I sympathize with her. She feels strongly about her position… she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position. And I've thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is, 'Get out of Iraq now.' And it would be -- it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run, if we were to do so. I grieve for every death," Bush said.
He acknowledged her right to speak out, he listened to her position and he explained why he disagreed with her position – all the while showing tremendous respect.
George Bush’s respectful tone did not do much for him in public opinion polls. In contrast, those in the White House today are going after their political opponents by questioning their authenticity and motivation. I doubt that tactic is going to be any more successful when it comes to moving polls.
Many of those protesting Bush accused him of being a murderer and war criminal, while the “angry mobs” attending the current town hall meetings are shouting things like “read the bill” and “just say no.” Many of those protesting have never attended a political function in their lives, but they are being attacked as partisan hacks.
The White House is also encouraging people to report things they see on the internet saying, “If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to email@example.com. I can’t help but wonder what all those voters who thought the Patriot Act smacked of “Big Brother” are thinking now.
The bloated “stimulus” bill, deficit-busting budgets, bailouts, the prospect of higher taxes and the idea of government control of the country’s health care system have fueled the frustration of everyday Americans and driven many of them into the streets and to town hall meetings. These are issues that affect people on a personal level, but have led them to react in very public ways. Unless politicians start listening to the voices of these average Americans and change course, expect to see plenty more protests and plummeting public opinion polls.
Originally posted at American Issue Project.