Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Time for responsible Republicans to denounce brown-shirt-type mobs disrupting town hall meetings

No one wants a government in which the public officials never speak to the public. But this is the situation that the Freedom Works crowds are creating. The are harassing public officials across the country, impeding the ability for public officials to have rational, civil discussions of health care. They are not only harassing Congressmen, they are also harassing Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius. July 28, 2009, mobs disrupted, booed and interrupted Secretary Sebelius. They essentially prevented the proceedings from moving forward.
Alas, she persevered, and a few days later she sounded as though some discussion proceeded.
We knew something was up when the introducer was booed. But we had a good exchange, lots of people eager to talk about how we need health reform.

Back on the trail for the public option, at Philadelphia, Secretary Sebelius experienced trouble, August 2, as documented by Denise Dennis at Huffington Post.
Philadelphia, PA -- August 2: This afternoon, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, I saw the face of ignorance and hate--and it wasn't pretty.

When Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) came to the National Constitution Center to answer questions about health care reform, they were greeted by an overflow crowd of approximately 400 people, the majority of whom were supporters with legitimate questions.

Unfortunately, though, a well-organized, belligerent and loud group of right-wingers stood in the aisles and across the back and disrupted the town meeting throughout. They yelled, shouted and jeered, and it was clear that they were not there to participate, but instead to try to disrupt the meeting and make it difficult as possible for anyone else to ask questions. They jeered from the moment the director of the Constitution Center stood to welcome everyone. For a few days leading up to the town meeting, e-mails circulated around Philadelphia warning that the "tea-baggers" were planning to protest the meeting and, although there were fewer of them than there were supporters--they made more noise shouting about "socialism," "abortion," and "assisted suicide."

Generally, things are getting worse at a number events with Congressmen, with the need for police to escort them, safely, away from the angry mobs.

These far right extremists cannot continue to disrupt public discourse. Responsible Republicans must denounce these anti-(small d) democratic tactics. Senators Lugar, Snowe, Voinovich must make clear that it is OK to express conservative opinions in opposition to Democratic Congressmen and Cabinet Secretaries; but it is not alright to aggressively shut down public discussion. It is time for them to draw a line in the sand between civility and mob rule.

These mobs are no different from the far-left (American) Spartacists. "Sparts," as they are known to normal, civil leftists stand up in meetings, scream at speakers, attempt to take over meetings. In sum, they are aggressively against any democratic principal of civility. The Freedom Works mobs are the right-wing incarnate of the Sparts.
Again, we can have a clean, vibrant, verbal political arguments with Republicans, but mob aggression against public officials is profoundly anti-democratic.

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