Town Hall Meeting, Fairview, NJ, August 14, 2009:
The newspaper reporter said, with a slight grimace, "This is my sixth one of these," referring to town hall meetings with Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman of the 9th District in northern New Jersey. He held ten in a single week. She told the Rude Pundit that each one had gotten progressively more boring, and that she blamed the temperature of the locations. "The first one was at a senior center, where it was hot and overcrowded and people who had differing opinions were rubbing against each other." The next night, in Rutherford, there was a slightly less agitated crowd because it was in an auditorium. The Rothman people learned to move to large, very air-conditioned spaces, so cooler temperatures meant cooler heads. Still, she commented, these were nothing like the town halls you see on the news.
And neither was this one. Sure, it was the middle of a weekday, and, sure, the crowd was about 85% elderly people, but, while there was some yelling (more on that in a moment), Rothman kept it all under control with a tightly formatted question and answer session. Indeed, the Democratic Party should be putting Rothman out there on talk shows because he offered some of the best, clearest explanations on the public option and on the Democratic health care proposals that the Rude Pundit's heard. And this tough Jewish bastard wouldn't take shit from anyone. When people tried to go batshit on him, he shut those idiots down in a heartbeat.
But there was a whole lot of stupid in a small space. The Rude Pundit was confronted two or three times about why he was recording the proceedings. The question on nearly every Medicare-loving senior's mind was whether or not Barack Obama was going to bury them alive and dance on their graves. No matter how many times Rothman patiently told some septuagenarian that "the government is not going to harm a hair on your head," the next one got up to insist that the government would have to "ration" health care. Somewhere, Sarah Palin felt a tingle of delight in her clit over what she had set in motion.
The Rude Pundit, meanwhile, had flashbacks to childhood Hanukkahs, where old relatives would yell about the kasha varnishka being too hot. More accurately, it was like going to visit the grandparents with the promise of a toy fire engine, but getting fondled by Grandpa in the tub instead. The psychic scars will never heal, and, fuck, how it makes one feel overwhelming despair.
And so it went, with useless question after useless question, democracy in action, motherfuckers, and the TV cameras there didn't focus on the vast majority of people calmly asking the useless questions. Nope, instead, one news crew was egging on the loudest, crankiest old man yelling out of turn, prompting Rothman, at one point, to threaten to eject them all. And attracting the most attention was a younger woman with no arms or legs who had a legitimate point, that it shouldn't cost more than (sometimes much more than) $10,000 for an electric wheelchair. But you know it wasn't the articulate, interesting question that got cameras focused on her and microphones shoved in her face. It was the freak factor, no less so than the people who broke protocol to yell out.
The biggest uproar was reserved for the one or two people who dared to get up and support the President and a public option or (heresy) single payer health care (which, to his credit, Rothman flat-out said he supported but that there is "no will" in the Congress for it to happen). So it went like this: a man was called on and said that Nancy Pelosi said he was un-American and that was wrong. He was applauded. A woman was called on and said that she's distressed that people were spouting lies about any health care plans and that she backs Obama. She was booed (with a smattering of applause). And then someone asked what about the unborn. And then someone asked about all the illegal immigrants filling our emergency rooms (although why anyone would want millions of sick illegals picking our produce is beyond the Rude Pundit).
After two hours of this, mostly boring and repetitive, it was over. And, with few exceptions, the Rude Pundit never hated old people more (yeah, yeah, he'll be old some day, and if he's fucking up the nation for everyone else, he hopes people will hate him, too). It's Bergen County, New Jersey. He's pretty sure that some of those people who were comparing Obama to Hitler survived or were related to survivors of the Holocaust. Someone needs to tell them that, back in the day, it didn't go Public Health Insurance Option, followed by Kristallnacht. Could we please get a few of the rational members of the tribe out there to represent?
This is a bullshit movement. Oh, sure, there's real emotions and real people, but it's a limp cock being strenuously fluffed by a media on its knees for the right wing of this country. It's a bullshit movement because it's based on bullshit. It's impossible to have a rational discussion when your opponent is merely throwing lies at you. This is not a fair fight because the people running the discussion at this point, the media, are allowing it to be so. It's like we agreed to play baseball and an opposing player ran onto the field with a football, spiked, yelled "Touchdown," and the umpires said, "We'll allow it. Six points. Who's up to bat?"
Jesus, why don't we just try to lie better? Say that public health insurance will let people grow bigger tits and dicks and hair where they want it and smooth skin where they don't want hair? That'll it'll make you feel orgasms all the way to your eyelids? That you can shit gold? Then let's get people to show up at town halls with signs saying, "Why don't Republicans want us to shit gold?" so that Republicans will be forced to waste their time saying, repeatedly, "You won't be able to shit gold."
The sad, sad part of this, especially if it's true that the White House is backing away from a public option, is that it's absolutely a failure of the nation at large and of the left in particular. Stupid people need to be led, and if it ain't by us, it'll be by the right. There's not a person, left or right, who left that Fairview meeting feeling that Rothman was a failure. In fact, everyone complimented him because he might have actually soothed them for a little while.
Until, you know, they turn on Fox "news" and hear Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck tell them to be afraid again.
Tomorrow: A way to go forward?
(For a more polite take on the meeting, see khin at Daily Kos. To hear the most wonderful description you'll hear from a senior citizen of what an asshole John McCain is, check out the Rude Pundit's podcast of the event.)