It may have started off badly, but it’s turning out okay. We hope.
As long as members of Congress were heading home for the August recess without having acted on health care reform, why not use the time to discuss the issue with the folks that elected them? That’s the part that started off badly, as special-interest-paid “bus tours” started loading up town hall meetings in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and Maryland with hecklers given instructions to yell and act mad, real mad. But that soon became known for it what it was, and that seems be sparking a genuine issues discussion, as health care reform supporters are now turning out to make their voices heard. The stage was set this week in Denver, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi turned up at a homeless medical clinic, Democratic congress members in tow. Antis and pros were ready.
“The plan for August,” Pelosi said at the clinic, “is to have a discussion, to listen carefully to what people are saying.”
Okay, folks got a little riled in Denver. The Denver Post ran a photo of one pro-reform protester ripping a protest sign out of the hands of an anti-reform protester. Antis are all over the place with loaded words like “socialized medicine.” (Can anyone say Medicare?) Hey, but they came out, they talked. Both sides got heard.
Then there’s a Washington state Democratic congressman, Rep. Brian Baird, who shut down the conversation, canceling his August town halls for fear of things getting out of hand. Baird told reporter Les Blumenthal of McClatchy Newspapers that his decision was partly prompted by intimidation and harassment from right-wing opponents of health care reform. Instead, Baird is doing an electronic version of a town hall meeting.
Two other Washington congressmen, however, Rep. Rick Larsen and Adam Smith are going forward with their August town halls. “It comes with the job,” Smith said. “They aren’t protesters. They are constituents speaking their minds.”
Now we’re talking.