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Shouting Like An Idiot Isn’t A Substitute For Political Debate

by @ 10:10 am on August 5, 2009. Filed under Barack Obama, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans, Rush Limbaugh

Much attention has been paid over the past few days to the raucous Congressional town halls that some see as a sign that the American people are revolting against ObamaCare and deficit spending. I’ve written about it, and the Club for Growth has cataloged the protests here, here, here, here, and here. There have been some allegations that the protests aren’t genuine, and the DNC has put out an ad trying to tie the protests into other “right wing extremists” such as the birthers.

Outside of the question of whether this is a grassroots rebellion or the result of Dick Armey’s astroturfing, though, is a more important point:

Is it ever the right thing to do to shout down the political opposition at an open meeting?

I realize people are angry. I know that conservatives feel a sense of powerlessness as Republicans in congress fumble and stumble around and the Democrats seem to have it all going their way. I accept the fact that this health care bill is a fearful monstrosity and that extraordinary measures should be taken to defeat it.

But is screaming in impotent rage at your congressmen the way to go about doing it?

Judging from the tactics of the right and the left over the past 40 years or so, the cesspool that talk radio has turned into, and the daily fare that one sees on the cable news networks between 5pm and 11pm every night, it certainly seems like people think the answer to that question is yes, but I’ve got to agree with Rick Moran on this one:

Every single poll shows that the more people know about this bill, the more they detest it. Logic and reason would go a helluva lot farther in showing people how bad this bill is than giving into emotionalism for the sake of a little theatrics and releasing pent up anger. You are not doing the cause one iota of good by demonstrating poor manners and stifling free speech.

Those citizens who are on the fence on this issue (the ones who will probably decide the fate of health care reform in the end), and who are trying to learn more about it, only see a bunch of angry, irrational people, incoherently ranting when they want to hear both sides of the argument. The question is, do we give them a chance to find out how bad this bill is or do we drive them into the arms of those supporting the measure by coming across as a bunch of bozos?


This is not a zero sum game. There is much more to be gained by demonstrating reasonably and respectfully than going off half cocked and disrupting what is, after all, part of the democratic process. There is a real chance that the entire idea of health care reform can be defeated for this congressional term.

But it won’t happen if conservatives continue to make it impossible for the majority of voters to see their side of the argument because they are preventing everyone from hearing both sides.

In other words, conservatives need to be a lot more like William F. Buckley, and a lot less like Rush Limbaugh. It’s hard to persuade the people you need to persuade when all they hear is stuff like this:

22 Responses to “Shouting Like An Idiot Isn’t A Substitute For Political Debate”

  1. [...] institutional focus.   But much more is needed for the “reset” to be real. Shouting Like An Idiot Isn’t A Substitute For Political Debate – 08/05/2009 Much attention has been paid over the past few days to the raucous [...]

  2. Scandia says:

    It’s easy to stir the masses and it’s scary as hell to see how easy it is to stoke this kind of emotion.

    I’m old enough to remember the response to Hitler’s speeches. Hands high; chanting “Sieg Heil”.

    Who might have started this particular chanting?

    Remember the fake rioting in Miami about the chads?

  3. SWAC Girl says:

    The American people have been like William F. Buckley for 40 years. They have been nice and quiet and have let the radical left shout and scream and be destructive.

    We see where it got them.

    The Silent Majority is silent no more. That’s exactly what the left would like — sit down and shut up. Their MO now is to criticize and ridicule and belittle those Ameicans who are speaking out. It’s not going to work.

    These are not unruly masses. These are people who have tried to talk to their representatives only to see those representatives IGNORE them and vote for huge bailouts, vote to micromanage private companies … and now are ready to vote for nationalized health care even though their constituents are asking them not to do so.

    Those showing up at townhall meetings are your neighbors … teachers, truck drivers, office workers, builders, lawyers, pastors, college students, college professors, retired folks, government workers, parents, grandparents … they represent America.

    They are educated people who are researching nationalized health care in Canada and Britain and seeing that it does not work. Those people come to the U.S. for medical care … yet we want to scrap our health care and go to the antiquated system used by others?

    The American people are exercising their right to question their elected representatives. They want a debate … they want answers … they want the Democrats to SLOW DOWN, read the fine print, and be transparent about it before signing on the dotted line.

    What is the White House so afraid of? Why the intimidation of the American people?

    Perhaps Barack Obama is afraid Americans will realize the “change” he promised is not what they want. Perhaps he is afraid that many citizens will realize they are AMERICANS first, not Democrat/Republican.

  4. Screaming at a Congressman isn’t going to accomplish anything. It isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.

    The solution isn’t to start acting like They weren’t the ones who won the election. Obama did, and he didn’t do it by acting like a raving loon. Republicans would do well to learn a few lessons from 2008.

  5. SWAC Girl says:

    “” didn’t win in 2008? I beg to disagree with you. Irregardless, Barack Obama has his surrogates to “scream” for him.

    My take on this is that Americans are frustrated because their years of civil discourse have resulted in screaming loons from the left. They are finally fighting fire with fire.

    Can’t say I blame them. If someone won’t listen, sometimes you have to raise your voice.

    “Republicans” learned a lesson in 2008? Apparently you are not aware these are Democrats AND Republicans at the townhall meetings. One Democrat was overhead saying, “The President took six months just to choose a dog!” Now he wants to jam through health care.

    No, this is not a Republican thing. It’s an AMERICAN thing.

  6. All I can say is that if you think that something constructive is being accomplished by a bunch of people shouting “Just Say No” at a Congressman in Texas to the point where he isn’t able to speak, you are, quite honestly kidding yourself.

    I guess I’m not surprised that this is what politics has come to in this country. I first started noticing it 25 years ago when I first started listening to talk radio out of New York City.

  7. SWAC Girl says:

    Do you think anything is accomplished by libs shouting conservative speakers off the stage on college campuses, or Ann Coulter (and other conservatives) having pies thrown in their faces? How about the radical lefty environmentalists who think it’s better to burn businesses and houses when they (the radicals) decide they want to save the wilderness?

    What I am saying is this has been going on most of my life. I was one of the Silent Majority until the libs took to the streets to protest the war in 2002, and for the first time in my life I went out on the street and held a “Support Our Troops” sign. I decided I couldn’t stay silent anymore.

    Now you are seeing that multiplied by thousands as quiet, law-abiding Americans are fed up at being insulted and shouted down by the libs. On top of it they are being ridiculed because they ARE finally speaking up.

    Calling names is not going to solve anything. I think what is happening is a result of the past 40 years as conservatives were brow-beat and insulted … they are now finally standing up for themselves.

  8. James Young says:

    Once again, Doug, you substitute your loathing of Rush Limbaugh for facts. I fail to see how he has anything to do with this.

  9. So far, though, conservatives haven’t convinced the rest of the public that they’re right and I fail to see how the kind of behavior I’ve been seeing on these YouTube videos is going to accomplish that.

  10. Scandia says:

    SWAC Girl

    “They want a debate…” Not easy a debate while screaming banshees drown out what’s being said.

    Are you putting US Congressman Lloyd Doggett on the same level as Ann Coulter?

  11. Once again, Doug, you substitute your loathing of Rush Limbaugh for facts. I fail to see how he has anything to do with this.

    What does Rush Limbaugh even have to do with this except for the fact that I used him as a symbol of the kind of political rhetoric that has not done the right any measurable good in the 25 years he’s been on the air ?

    I was talking about people whose idea of political debate is to go to a town hall meeting and shout down someone when they say something they don’t like. It’s a stupid tactic no matter which side of the aisle engages in it.

    And, I don’t loath Limbaugh, I just don’t consider him anything other than what he is —- an entertainer.

  12. Steve says:

    Ok, first time to the site, but from reading the heading I was under the impression that this was a nonpartisan site. It took me all of 2 minutes to realize that this is more of an educated Republican site. You don’t like the ridiculousness of a Rush or the stupidity of a Beck. But I can deal with that. Regarding the genuine nature of the protesters I find ridiculous, especially when they rail against gov’t interfering in health care when they are already enrolled in Medicare or VA. This article is more about getting Republican sympathizers to intelligently debate their points which I agree with, however the article also mentions that the more people know about the bill, the more they will hate it, just as those in Canada or UK do. I don’t know where you get that info from, Big Pharma maybe?, but when conservatives from both countries can’t see living without their nationalized health care, isn’t that already better than here? An American who gets injured in one of those countries can receive medical care with little to no cost, but if vice versa, do you think the Canadian or Brit would be happy with a couple thousand dollar bill? It’s astounding that a company whose service is to ensure that its customers get health care but then when they do need it, and it happens to cost quite a bit, those customers get kicked out because of their expense to the company. But don’t think for a second that the insurance company is going to pay back the already paid premiums. For an insurance company: money > human health. For humans: human health > money. If money is the most important thing to conservatives, then there is a dept on the budget that can be reduced significantly to bring down on par with the rest of the world in order to give Americans what they need. The Defense Dept.’s budget is about equal to the rest of the world combined, and it’s time that we cared more about preserving life instead of taking it.

  13. Cargosquid says:

    Yes. We want a debate. But Congress has already decided what is “best” for us. Its only the loud protests that slowed the process. OUR questions need to be answered in a forthright manner, not more platitudes about how “investment” ie, gov’t spending, is fixing everything. We need debate on the floor of the Senate about bills. Not rush jobs on votes even BEFORE THE BILL IS FINISHED, MUCH LESS, READ!. If they haven’t listened to a quiet civilized group, perhaps they will listen to a loud, angry group. And yes, follow that logic. What comes next? We don’t want that. But the Congress and Administration need to straighten up and fly right and stop trying to con the American people.

  14. What rush ?

    The bill hasn’t been voted on has it ?

  15. SWAC Girl says:

    That’s disingenuous, Doug, because you should know as well as the rest of us that Congress would have voted on that bill BEFORE the August recess if the American public had not started speaking up. Only because of the loudness of the tea parties and townhall meetings did Blue Dogs become scared and start dragging their feet, slowing down something that would have passed.

    Bottom line: The Dems are in charge of D.C. and are going to shove this thing through Congress. The only way Americans can get any attention is to speak up at townhalls and that, my friend, is exactly what they are doing. Their loudness called attention to the issue for others and stopped the bill from passing BEFORE the break so Dems are angry and are now whining. Their plans were screwed up.

    How do they retaliate? Produce an ad critical of American citizens for practicing their First Amendment rights, and then put the word out to “report on” those who speak critically of this bill or the White House. Does anyone remember the USSR or East Germany? Wake up, people!

    Instead of criticizing fellow citizens, they should be praised. They are fighting back … the American spirit is not dead!

    As to Rush Limbaugh: In my opinion, he provides a service to conservatives by alerting them to information that is not readily offered up by the mainstream media. That was especially true 20 years ago before the internet age but is still viable today.

  16. You still haven’t told me how shouting like an idiot is going to convince the 50% of the public that still supports the health care reform plan that they’re wrong.

    Unless you can do that, all this shouting is for nothing.

  17. SWAC Girl says:

    You’re not reading my responses which includes the fact that calling those citizens names (idiots) does not help the issue. All that does is lower yourself to the same level.

  18. And that is my point.

    People who go to Congressional town halls to ask questions and voice their concerns about health care or any other issue are one thing.

    People who go to Congressional town halls and end up shouting down anyone who disagrees with them or making it impossible for the person speaking to answer the question — which is what these videos reveal — are quite another.

    They’re not there to debate, they’re there to demagogue, and even though I probably agree with them on many things, they’re wrong.

  19. SWAC Girl says:

    No, Doug, those folks are NOT there to shout. Your attitude is very condescending and elitist, in my opinion.

    Those citizens are there to hear answers … but they are getting talking points.

    Sorry, Doug … you will not change my mind on this. I am with those people because it is their right to question their electeds and when the electeds don’t respond (they “stayed on message,” as one lady at the Arlen Specter Philly townhall on Sunday said), they are questioned about it. All these people have heard for weeks is empty rhetoric and PR spin on how they have to support this monstrosity of a bill. To now call them “angry mobs” is the height of hypocrisy.

    Just answer the questions! Problem is … they can’t. They don’t know and the dang thing is so complicated they can’t figure it all out. And that is scary to people about to lose control of their health care.

    I saw the same thing locally in March when 1,000 people turned out for an Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting to protest excessive real estate assessments. They were met with an arrogant board who showed no sympathy or understanding … and the crowd did something I’ve never seen happen there before. They began shouting at the supervisors from throughout the room. You know why? Frustration because 1,000 turned out for that meeting (the largest BOS meeting ever in Augusta) and 10,500 signed petitions … and the supervisors still ignored the will of the people and treated them as if they didn’t have a brain in their heads.

    That is now going on with electeds at townhall meetings. People have been lied to and treated with disrespect (“There, there … you’re too stupid to understand something this complicated”) … and they are not going to take it anymore!

    I would think you, as a libertarian (I think that’s what you are), would absolutely be on the side of the people in this issue. We’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’ve been throughout my community … I’ve talked with these everyday Americans … I’ve heard the fear in their voices and have seen the frightened looks in their eyes. They are afraid of their own government, even at the local level, because they have no control.

    I’m with the American patriots on this one.

  20. MlR says:

    They don’t want a debate. They want people cowed. The last thing they want is to face the kind of demagoguery they’re successfully used in the public area for decades now. You can’t reason people out of things they haven’t been reasoned into to begin with – at some point you do have to fight fire with fire, simply out of self-preservation. And no, it is not necessarily self-defeating to ‘work the mob’. Indeed, distasteful though it may be, it is typically not the case that the rational, calm parties win over the discourse in democratic or participatory systems, particularly when they need to make their nice, polite case through non-neutral mediums. Usually, the shouters win, in large part due to the sheer energy they generate in their followers, and fear they instill in the opposition.

  21. Watch the videos, and tell me those people are there to engage in an real political debate.

    Again, you’re not paying any attention to what I’m saying and if you think shouting people down is going to accomplish anything, you’re kidding yourself.

  22. Scandia says:

    Go to “recess” and find out who’s behind these so called grass roots protests.

    Rachel Maddow has researched the background of the sponsors and reported on her show tonight. Verrrry interesting!

    It’s not the butcher, the baker, the beautician, the Safeway check-outer that’s behind the movement. Professional rabble rousers, that’s who.

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