Remember those right-wing activists who organized Tax Day “tea parties” to protest the Obama administration? They’re back, but this time, it’s to disrupt town hall meetings being held by Democratic elected officials.1
These people are on the fringe, like the “Birthers” and the “Obama is a terrorist” protesters from last year’s presidential campaign. They’ve already demonstrated their willingness to form menacing mobs, hanging one congressman in effigy outside of his office2 and forcing another to have to leave his meeting with a police escort for his safety.3 And a strategy memo they’ve circulated shows clearly that the goal of these actions is to “rattle” and intimidate the elected official, preventing an intelligent debate.4
Now, Republican congressional leaders, like National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and House Minority leader John Boehner, are endorsing this strategy!5
Town hall meetings are ways for elected officials to interact directly with their constituents — to take the time to explain important issues and to get constructive feedback from the people they were elected to represent. They give constituents access to their senators and representatives in a way that is very important to a functional representative democracy.
But these right-wing “tea baggers” have a game plan to derail these meetings by showing up in large numbers, inflating those numbers by spreading out in the hall, and then shouting down the government officials every time they try to speak. It’s fundamentally undemocratic to obstruct citizens’ access to their elected officials in this way.
It’s critical that Americans are able to have a dialogue with members of Congress right now because Congress is in the middle of a humongous debate on health care reform and there is no shortage of misinformation filling the airwaves (especially from corporate interests and the Far Right).
Members of the Obama administration and Democratic members of Congress have already had several town hall meetings ruined and with the August congressional recess starting next week, there are many more planned in the coming weeks.
— Michael B. Keegan, President
1. “Teabaggers Try To Shout Down Health Care Reform At Town Halls,” Talking Points Memo, August 3, 2009.
2. “Anti-health care protesters hang freshman Democrat in effigy.” Think Progress, July 28, 2009.
3. “Town halls gone wild,” Politico, July 31, 2009.
4. “Right-Wing Harassment Strategy Against Dems Detailed In Memo: ‘Yell,’ ‘Stand Up And Shout Out,’ ‘Rattle Him’,” Think Progress, July 31, 2009.
5. “Boehner’s Office Cheers On Disruption Of House Dems’ Town Hall Events,” Talking Points Memo, August 3, 2009.