People showing up at town halls across this country are not being paid, coaxed, or brain-washed to be there.
First of all, what all powerful organization could accomplish such a thing? Now that's a great conspiracy theory!
Second, the people at these town hall meetings don't appear to be anyone's lackey. How insulting to believe Americans are so easily bought, led, and basically told what to do. I do however, think a lot of them are there more out of a general dissatisfaction with Washington than with the health care issue. But whatever, at least they're PRESENT.
Have you seen the dumbfounded look on the faces of politicians confronted with constituents back home? Frankly, their wide-eyed slack jawed shock says more about American apathy than it does the issue.
Elected officials aren't generally stupid. They know people disagree with them politically and on individual issues. The jaw drop and trembling hands aren't because people disagree with them, though it may seem that way at first glance, it's the fact PEOPLE SHOWED UP.
In my travails as a reporter, I covered my share of elected officials, both local and national, from city councils to congressional town halls. The one common theme at all these public events? Few, if any, citizens bothered to show up. Frankly, most of the time the press and political entourage were the only people in the room. Sure, people have lives, some even go so far as to trust the media to watch the government for them and report any nefarious activity.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
So when Joe Normal shows up in mass, yeah, elected officials are dumbfounded. Not because Joe Normal disagrees with policy, but because Joe Normal isn't Joe Apathetic anymore. How does a politician deal with Joe Engaged?
Is it even possible for politics to remain the same in a country when Joe Engaged remains engaged past an election?
And what about the media? What started as a noble watchdog profession, a profession diligently dedicated to protecting all Americans from potential government and commercial abuse, has stalwartly chosen political teams. You can't be an umpire when standing at bat.
Will Joe Engaged recognize the watchdog is now the lapdog? Where will the backlash leave that particular puppy? Out in the cold?
A few thoughts for Joe Engaged, the media,and elected officials to ponder on this new playing field:
People getting together to support or show dissent for elected representatives/policy in open meetings.
Americans being involved in the democratic process.
Allowing each person the opportunity to speak and be heard (as time and space allow).
The Golden Rule
What doesn't work:
The media labeling dissenters "plants."
People losing control in public venues. Screaming and chanting may have a place in demonstrations, not so much in group settings where information is trying to be given and gathered.
Elected representatives "fighting back" against the public