What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in. And the Democratic response has been stunningly crude and aggressive. It has been to attack.
"Rebellion." "Uprising." "Crude." "Aggressive." "Attack."
And then the repetition of another theme: "For normal people, it’s not all about Barack Obama." Because these folks are all the "normal" folks. Well, guess what? So am I, and I am disgusted by what I have seen. Normal people don't scream at other normal people during a legitimate policy debate. Normal people want to see this country have a good health care system and have legitimate disagreements about how to get there. And if it ain't about Barack Obama, stop showing up to meetings acting like it is all about Barack Obama.
But most damagingly to political civility, and even our political tradition, was the new White House email address to which citizens are asked to report instances of “disinformation” in the health-care debate: If you receive an email or see something on the Web about health-care reform that seems “fishy,” you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wait, an email address is most damaging to political civility?? The screaming in other people's faces gets trumped by the White House's version of Snopes.com?
It is the same language that has been used since January by the pundit classes, further dividing our nation on what is essentially a policy question with the rhetoric of war. These "passionate people" have been passionate since the first Tea Parties back in the Spring, where there was talk of secession and the evils of tyranny in Washington.
They are the same people who completely dismissed those of us who were terrified during the last 8 years when the Bush administration started a misadventure in Iraq, ignored written laws through executive privilige, secretly wiretapped American phone calls, botched Federal disaster response because of political appointees, waterboarded people then defended it as "not torture," asked folks like me "why do you hate America?" when we questioned any of it, and paid not one whit of attention, unless the attention was derisive, when we spoke of the evils of tyrrany in Washington.
And yet, we're out of bounds for saying people shouldn't scream in other people's faces during legitimate debates? Unbelievable.
In this atmosphere, is it any wonder at all that these passion fueled screaming matches have turned into more hands-on clashes in St. Louis and Tampa? Where will the next shoving matches cause police to close down proceedings? Where will the next assault arrest be made? Where will the first police overreaction cause concern over 'jack-booted thugs' and feed the narrative that we are moving towards a police state? How will that increase the tension? Finally, where will the first really big fight break out, the one that really sets things off?
Because this is America. And us "normal" people just can't act "normal" when other people disagree with us.
PS: This means that 7000 diverse New Orleanians can get together to protest crime more peacefully than 1500 retirees in Tampa can talk about health insurance. And you wonder why I live here?