Thursday, August 6, 2009

More on the Recent Health Care Forum in Cincinnati

As more and more members of Congress are engaging with public via local town hall meetings on the issue of health care reform, we continue to see the same pattern from a segment of the population who are opposed to what they view as, "socialized medicine".

It has been well documented by various sources that primarily Republican and Conservative opponents to health care reform, have engaged in tactics to interrupt these town hall meetings and specifically avoid having an intelligent debate. There is even one report that came out yesterday of a Congressman who was physically assaulted at one of these events.

The scene was no different at Monday's local town hall meeting at the First Unitarian Church here in Cincinnati with Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH). As you could see in my initial post on this topic, Driehaus was regularly interrupted by the crowd and at times had difficulty answering the questions as people insisted on shouting over him. "What about the illegals getting covered?" one man shouted, "You're lying!" shouted several others.

Driehaus pleaded for rationality and calm indicating that he wanted to have a good discussion with those who didn't agree with the plan, but couldn't do so if everyone insisted on shouting. A handful of people walked out two-thirds of the way through the forum complaining about socialism and indicating the the health care system did not need reforming. Several people wore tee-shirts with the web address of the Cincinnati Tea Party movement while others had signs objecting to, in their view, a government take-over of the health-care industry.

As the forum drew to a conclusion after a little over an hour, little had been accomplished. This had not been a thoughtful exchange of ideas but was rather a gathering of people who felt that the best way to move America forward was to prevent any rational and thoughtful debate. Participants who used buzz phrases indicating their opposition to "government control" and "socialized medicine" were cheered and when Driehaus even mentioned the words "single payer" or dared to question the deficit under President Reagan, he was called a liar and shouted down.

This opposition to President Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress has been brewing since last year's campaign season. Obama was regularly called a "socialist", slammed for "palling around with terrorists", and was criticized by many on the right for wanting to "destroy America". We see these themes injected into everything from the debate on the passage of the stimulus plans, to the birther movement, and now we see these tactics used in the health care debate. There are similarities that can be observed in many of these instances. Opponents of these policies are often operating off a playbook that misrepresents factual information and rather than get their fuel from ideas and proposing alternatives, they get their fuel from a belief that Obama and the Democrats genuinely want to destroy the United States.

Glenn Beck exploits this tactic daily on his show on Fox News and recently revealed that he believes that Obama not only hates white people, but is an actual racist. Is it any wonder why we see primarily middle-aged whites lining up to attend "tea-parties" and shout down Congressmen at these town hall meetings?

Below is a video that contains some footage that I shot after the conclusion of Monday's Health Care forum in Cincinnati. You will see the police moving in to surround Driehaus after he was done taking questions, the crowd chasing after Driehaus as he exited the church, and a conversation with one of the opponents of health care reform. You will hear several moments where people are shouting "Vote for Chabot" in reference to long-time politician Steve Chabot whom Driehaus defeated in 2008 and will face once again in the next election. As the crowd runs over to Driehaus' car, you will also hear someone shout "Don't kill your parents Steve!" which is a reference to a story that Driehaus told during the forum about his personal struggle in determining end of life care for his now deceased father.

As the crowd dispersed one person proudly stated, "Well that was a peaceful protest now wasn't it?" while two others expressed to me, "I wish their was less shouting...I would like to see a stronger push for nationalized health care." Too bad they didn't get to ask a question during the forum. Then again, they probably wouldn't have had a chance to fully ask their question before being shouted down. Here is the video:

This piece is crossposted here.


trey said...

I don't get it Chris: you claim all these people want to 'specifically avoid having an intelligent debate' but when you come across a guy like Jim who seems to know a little something about politics you can't avoid trying to portray him as some kind of loon with all your sarcastic asides. The guy presented his rather well-thought-out positions in as calm, reasoned manner as one could ask. That said, I did think some of the shenanigans from the crowd in the meeting were beyond the pale but to be honest it was still probably more interesting than hearing a Washington politician (even though Driehaus does come across as a decent guy)drone on about some massive centralized program that noone with a half-a-life would have the time to truly understand. Maybe thats why our founding fathers were so adamant about the truism that any society which claims to allow the people power over shaping their lives has to, by neccesity, have a government small enough where the average citizen can truly understand all the various 'government systems'.

Chris Johnson said...


In my experience in speaking with Jim, he seemed to know a lot about right-wing talking points as he strayed from topic to topic, loosely linking together his points under the banner of "we are being taken over by socialists". I disagree that his points were "well-thought-out positions" as there were many moments where he did not make sense while wandering from topic to topic. I set out looking for his views on the forum that happened that evening and ended up desperately trying to steer the conversation back to health care. Our actual conversation lasted for about half-an-hour and while being calm was an interesting look at one of those opposed to health care reform.

Your view on whether the disruptions were "more interesting" than hearing a "Washington politician...drone on about some massive centralized program that no one with half-a-life would have the time to truly understand" is beside the point. The goal of these town hall meetings is not to be "interesting" but to be informative and give the public a chance to have a real conversation and share real ideas with their Congresspeople. This democratic forum is deliberately being interrupted by groups of people whose goal it is to shout over people and discourage rational debate.

trey said...

Chris, after posting I did notice in the video that you probably did edit the conversation down some (which was probably the most droning, repetitive stuff). I'm no documentary film expert so I don't know how one can best deal with the Catch 22 of wanting to indicate that the interviewee is a boring drone and also not wanting to bore the viewer with the interviewee's boring droning. But to be fair, everyone more or less regurgitates the talking points of the side they back. And I think Jim was probably a good deal better than most.

And to return to the Driehaus video while we're talking about boring drones (not meant as a slam on Driehaus, just the topic), I really had to fast forward through most of it and so don't know exactly how out of hand it got but I definately think people should be more polite at public meetings. But the whole crux of the right wing argument (as far as I understand it) is that citizens want to feel like they have a good deal of control over their own lives but life is too short to waste it trying to learn the details of some massive, distant government program that they have no real control over so the only solution is to fight to keep government small. Maybe that is being somewhat naive in this complicated, modern world but it was definately one of the main pillars this country was founded on.

Anonymous said...

Are there going to be more town hall meetings in Cincinnati? I missed this one and want to go in order to be a rational, not shouting, voice in the debate.


Chris Johnson said...

@ Lora

First, thanks for stopping by and reading. I hope you will continue to check back!

Second, I have not heard any news of more town hall meetings that will be held in Cincinnati. If I get wind of any additional forums, I will post them here.

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