Exerpts from commentaries by bloggers I read regularly and trust:
When the evening newscast the other night was showing footage of the chaos at another one of these town meetings, I told my wife that it reflected the basic difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats do everything they can to demobilize their base, who are seen as inconvenient and extraneous to their main way of getting things done, namely through closed door meetings with corporate executives and nonprofit honchos over how to screw the American people while giving the opposite impression. Meanwhile, the Republicans are much more reliant on an activist base because their social support is much narrower. As a party that rules directly and openly in the interests of the moneyed elite, it requires all sorts of grass roots organization to push its filthy agenda forward.Richard Estes at American Leftist:
Obama will do everything in his power to convince those who voted for him to remain patient while he carries out what amounts to a third Bush term, but there will be more and more defensive measures by the poor and the working class in defense of its own class interests. One can be reasonably assured that the level of discontent in the US will rise despite the African-American President’s clear gift for demagogy and deception.
But there are exceptions. Jane Hamsher and the gang at firedoglake don't just put out a liberal line on issues like the wars in the Middle East and health care reform, they urge their allies to lobby and protest in support of those issues. Now, mind you, as a leftist, I have some significant disagreements with the people who post at firedoglake. After all, I'm a leftist, and they are liberals. However, I respect the fact that they are actively challenging the Democratic Party, as represented in the White House and Congress, to adopt their perspective. They don't play the game of talking liberal and then letting elected Democrats vote moderate to conservative. For example, they call out people who try to create the appearance of supporting progressive health care reform, while facilitating the opposite.libhom at GLH
As you might have guessed, the people at firedoglake have selected health care reform as the make or break issue for the Obama presidency. They have organized a focused effort to pressure Democrats in the House to demand a strong public option as an essential component of any health care proposal that goes to the President. Now, they are encouraging people to attend town hall meetings this month to counteract the presence of right wing protesters. This is a critical issue, because a strong public option, one that gives people the opportunity to select a government operated plan instead of ones provided by the insurance industry, is necessary to pressure insurers and health care providers to keep costs down. Even opponents of the public option acknowledge it. Indeed, they believe that the government option would be so efficient as to result in the de facto creation of a single payer system.
Unfortunately, it's not going to happen, because the President doesn't want it to happen. Nor does his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The consequences of this failure, as noted by Hamsher last Monday, are serious:According to the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, there are 52 million Americans currently without health insurance. We are a country in crisis. If the government cannot respond by delivering a public plan with a President who campaigned on creating one, a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate, a Speaker of the House who has committed to doing so and majority support in both parties among the public, then we do not live in a representative democracy any more. The country is ungovernable.
We are allowing ourselves to be backed into a corner by the far right tactics. There must be another way, and there is.
We need to strongly attack and condemn the far right for what they are doing. But, that must not stop us from speaking out against policies of center right Democrats that are far too similar to the corporatist agenda of the last 29 years. Speaking out against conservative policies pushed by Democrats also has the beneficial tactic of raising questions in the minds of some of the rightists as to just how "liberal" the Democratic Party leadership really is.
We are in a difficult situation, but losing our nerve only makes things worse. Failing to learn from our mistakes during the Clinton Administration is not a luxury liberals or this country can afford.
UPDATE - With thanks to Broadsides (also recommended), I'm adding some well-chosen thoughts by David Lindorff
This is not about civil discourse. This is about propaganda. The Obama administration and the Democratic Congressional leadership have sold out health care reform for the tainted coin of the medical-industrial industry, and are holding, or trying to hold, these meetings around the country to promote legislation that has essentially been written for them by that industry--legislation that will force everyone to pay for insurance as offered, and priced, by the private insurance industry. What a deal for those companies--a captive market of 300 million people! There will be little or no effort to control prices, and the higher costs will be financed through higher taxes, and through cuts in Medicare benefits.
This isn't "reform." It's corruption, pure and simple.
Any mention of a system that works--single payer--the system we already have in the form of Medicare for the elderly and disabled, and the system that has proved successful for almost four decades in Canada-- has been systematically blocked and censored out of the discussion. Every effort has been made to bury an excellent bill, HR 676, offered up by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), which would cover every American by simply expanding Medicare to cover everyone.
The only proper response at this point is obstruction, and the more militant and boisterous that obstruction, the better.
Instead of opposing the right-wing hecklers at these events, progressives should be making common cause with them. Instead of calling them fascists, we should be working to turn them, by showing them that the enemy is not the left; it is the corporations that own both Democrats and Republicans alike.