by McQ | August 5, 2009 6:35 pm
The videos of what are described as “angry” townhalls around the country keep pouring in. Here’s one from Green Bay, WI.
Of course there are tons of others.
The Democrats and the left have answered the protests by claiming that they’re nothing more than “right-wing extremists” under the control of powerful interest groups. Thus the charge of “astro-turfing”.
These accusations by the DNC seem to ignore the Tea Party movement’s origins which was, on inspection, a true grass-roots movement (and one that has taken both Democrats and Republicans to task for their profligate spending). Notice too that they include the “birthers” in their vid to underline their “extremist” claim.
The White House, instead of trying to calm the waters, has chosen employ Saul Alinsky against the protesters:
A key part of the developing strategy: ridicule the opposition — and portray those who disrupt meetings with loud chants and signs as part of the same ilk of people who showed up at campaign rallies for John McCain and Sarah Palin right after the 2008 Republican National Convention.
So this turns into a propaganda war. The left will be attempting to turn public opinion against the protesters by portraying them a certain way.
Patronizing opponents is a tried and true tradition in Washington, and Democrats have used the tactic with success. They ridiculed the hundreds of thousands of conservatives who protested the stimulus package as “tea baggers.”
But Republicans are just as responsible for the perception. The folks who tend to show up at protest events tend to be to the right of the mean in the party. And, as the spread of the birther movement demonstrates, not a small chunk of these Republicans are reactionaries. The challenge for the White House and Democrats is that they find a way to separate genuinely anxious conservatives who ask good questions — even if those questions are provided by conservative groups — and the crazies who tend to pack town hall meetings.
Of course, most reasonable people would suggest, upon reflection, that if this was an “astro-turfed” movement, those who are paying for it would have much tighter control and avoid the obviously unhelpful signage and any connection with the birther movement. That’s obviously not the case.
So the right and Republicans have the momentum, at least for now, but it isn’t clear if they have an advantage for the reasons stated.
The challenge for Republicans is to prevent the media from labeling everyone who attends a meeting with a Democratic lawmaker and who calls him or herself a conservative as a crazy person. Some polling suggests that the percentage of Republicans who don’t know whether President Obama was born in the United States is fairly high, although it is hard to say how much of that confusion stems from ignorance or from a generally jaundiced, perhaps racist, view of the President.
A range of smaller, ideologically conservative interest groups are organizing the protests. Finding pockets of activist-oriented arch-conservatives in places like Texas, Missouri and Indiana is easy, especially if the set goal is to defeat Obama-care, which is being sold to these people as the approach of government-run health care, something that these folks have been worried about for years. Add to the mix a desire to hand the progressive President and his agenda a decisive defeat.
And there’s an interesting question about pushing back on the left – where are its activists and organizations?
The more troublesome question for Democratic strategists is why the major Democratic groups, including Organizing for America, the labor unions, Health Care for America Now, seem to be flatfooted and unable to match the much smaller conservative organizing capacity in these critical districts. One answer is that the media pays attention to the loudest voices, which are coming from the right. The other is that organizing around major — even popular — reforms of existing institutions is tough. The Democrats don’t have a single bill right now, and the elite left is worried about what’s not in the cards — a public plan — and is therefore fairly unenthusiastic. If the liberal elite isn’t enthusiastic, the liberal base — less knowledgeable — will be as well.
And of course, there’s the media – which, it seems, leans mostly toward helping the administration. For instance, the conclusion of the article from which I’ve been quoting from Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic:
To focus minds, Democrats are coordinating TV and radio ad blitzes, including the biggest expenditures by the Democratic National Committee to date. President Obama, his cabinet and his vice president will be ubiquitous. Quickly responding to disinformation will be a key goal, an administration official said, pointing to this morning’s release of a video from Linda Douglass, a former television and print reporter who serves as a key White House health care adviser, which rebutted a misleading video posted on the Drudge Report.
Linda Douglass “rebutted” nothing. She made a bunch of claims she’d have great difficulty substantiating. But that is how it is being reported. The implication is that what comes from the right is “disinformation” and the only true source of factual information is the White House.
I think we all know that dog won’t hunt.
But this should be a very, very interesting August.
[Crossposted at QandO]
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