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Eric Kleefeld rounds up some videos of Tea Partiers and union members getting into a fight over health-care reform. It's ugly stuff:

It's really startling how quickly the temperature has increased on health-care reform. It was only a month or so ago that I was blogging this and there was virtually no loud grassroots activity on the issue. Health Care for American Now had some people in the field, as did various industry groups, but that was about it. Then right-wing radio and Glenn Beck and the rest of them activated their masses and suddenly we've got fistfights in Florida.

Kleefeld, I think, gets the weirdness of this right. "One thing that should be noted, despite the right-wing chants of 'You work for us,' and 'Hear our voice,' is that both of these districts are overall heavily Democratic. Carnahan's district voted 60% for Obama, and Castor's district voted 66% for Obama."

This is not what the politics of health-care reform look like. This is what the grassroots strategies of various groups look like. It's important not to mistake one for the other.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 7, 2009; 1:54 PM ET
 
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Comments

A vote for Obama last Novemeber or a favorable opinion of him today doesn't necessarily equate to support for the President's health reform goals, much less the specific draft bills in Congress. Polls consistently show that Obama himself is more popular than his policies. And even his personal popularity has been trending downwards.

Also, legislators are supposed to represent the interests of all of their consitutents, not just those who voted them into office.

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

limbaugh, hannity, beck and their accomplices and followers want the obama administration to fail...even at the cost of the country failing, discourse being drowned out and the possibility of violence and bloodshed in our town halls.

they are not patriots, though they wrap themselves up like cocoons in the american flag.


Posted by: jkaren | August 7, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

This is astroturf politics, not grass roots, when the coordination and funding is coming from the corporate insurance industry and the RNC.

Posted by: cmpnwtr | August 7, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Without casting blame as to which side might have started the fights, I think we need to keep in mind that a lot of the folks who are screaming and acting like maniacs are usually not even part of the district the town halls were intended for.

These people are all part of a very vocal, very angry minority, and they are looking for an outlet to vent their frustrations. The town halls just appear to be the most convenient (and most advertised) outlet.

Posted by: JERiv | August 7, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The person arrested was SEIU union thug. The victim was black.

I guess it doesn't pay to be black if you're a conservative.

And for the moron above that asserts this is is not grassroots, here's some pictures of the protesters.

Mett "The Mob"
http://tinyurl.com/lcsypm

I'll leave it to Ezra's readers to discern if they really believe these are paid protesters.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | August 7, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Near as I can tell from the video above it was one or more of the SEIU union guys who acted in a thuggish manner. That seems to be what the police concluded, anyway. Certainly the union guys attending in matching t-shirts look more like astroturf than the rest of the amassed citizenry.

In any case, there are plainly many opponents of the Democtrat's reform plan who are both serious and civil, as the pictures at another gathering attempt to illustrate:

http://thedanashow.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/meet-the-mob/

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Right now we have the #1 conservative talk radio host calling Obama "Hitler" and lying to people that health care reform is euthanasia. We have the Republican party saying this is euthanasia, and health insurance will be illegal, and rationing is here. We have organized campaigns with direct instructions to disrupt town halls and make it impossible for people to speak. We have congressmen burned in effigy. We have death threats.

Over this bill.

This bill which, I'm sorry, everyone with a shred of honesty agrees is a moderate bill.

This stuff is not about healthcare reform. It's certainly not about the kind of reform that's on the table. It's about something else entirely.

It's about fear ginned up by these lies, or about the same stuff that's behind the birth certificate nonsense, or right-wing activists who know think a defeat on healthcare will stop Obama from doing anything, or Republican politicians who know health reform will be popular and who can't let the Democrats have that win.

But it's certainly not about this bill, which is milquetoast. Seriously, pre-existing condition ban? Subsidies? Medicaid expansions? These are things people are getting into fistfights over?

Posted by: theorajones1 | August 7, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Krugman's column yesterday, about the people protesting at the town halls, was interesting.

Posted by: wiredog | August 7, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"This bill which, I'm sorry, everyone with a shred of honesty agrees is a moderate bill."

Compared to what?

I want some of whatever this guy's on.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | August 7, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I don't think throwing around "right wing" is accurate...while there may be a strong presence, I think the loudest voices are the libertarians. Beck would also describe himself as small-l libertarian.

I feel perpetuating the "astroturf" "right wing wacko" mantra on groups not supporting more government involvement in health care should be saved for partisan blogs offering significantly less thoughtful content than Ezra usually has.

Posted by: matthawke | August 7, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I hate disabuse some of you of the wilder fantasies floating through your head, but the "SEIU Union Thugs" were invited particpants in the forum. Not outside agitators. Also, I love the union thugs bit. Did you notice the guy hobbling around on the cain in the purple shirt? Real intimidating!

Posted by: ctown1 | August 7, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Er...wrongfuldeath...are you one of those people who thinks Obama is a socialist?

Seriously, the only Washington politicians who speak and act even close to what one would expect from a socialist are Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders, who are SUBSTANTIALLY to the left of Obama. The Political Compass website puts Obama and almost every major politician in the US to the right of center.

The Obama health care proposals are so far so obeisant to the health insurance industry as to be laughable. They meekly suggest the public option as a way to compete with private insurers. And the private health insurance industry is an unpopular industry that a clever politician could isolate and "right size" quite easily.

Even, if Obama proposed a truly socialized health care system like the VA (not like a single-payer system) or like the English NHS, that would not make him necessarily a socialist!!! His motivation in all probability in that extremely unlikely case would be to save capitalism from itself, not replace it with "public ownership of the means of the production"...which is socialism.

Right now he is far to the right of that and also not likely to be saving our capitalist democracy from itself any time soon. A better manager than Bush 2 but currently overmatched by our dire situation and the inefficiencies of Washington.

Posted by: michaelterra | August 7, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"Right now we have the #1 conservative talk radio host calling Obama 'Hitler'"

I suspect this isn't the first time in our history that a president has been equated with Hitler.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 7, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

tbass1 -

You are correct that a positive opinion of Obama doesn't necessarily mean approval of any particular element of his agenda. But is also true that Obama ran and won on a campaign where health care reform with a strong public plan option figured among his core two or three issues.

We also know from numerous polls that a clear majority support a public option. Indeed, for a number of years now there has been a slight majority in favor of a single payer plan for reform.

The fact that support for the present plan is slipping is only evidence that the efforts of unscrupulous liars and their useful idiots are paying off.

Posted by: AnanSudanomos | August 7, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

It's one thing to say that some people may have voted for Obama and yet still disagree with the very idea of health care/insurance reform (something that is a little surprising given that he ran on the issue and health care was central to the democratic primary).

It's another for these people to interrupt townhalls and to engage in shout downs -- especially at meetings in districts in which they don't even live.

Yes, it's true too that some of these people are NOT paid.

Some clearly work in the industry. Most have some affiliation with the GOP and are the rank and file -- Bush's base.

None of these people though are coming to these meetings to have a debate -- they are simply coming to these meetings to shut down the discussion. They complain about Nazis while acting like a bunch of Nazis.

These Tea-Baggers have less self-awareness than a 3 year-old.

It's interesting too that almost no GOPers are holding their own town-halls during the break. It was pretty obvious a few weeks ago why they wanted to delay the process, but it wasn't clear then exactly what they had planned. If this is their answer to health care, health insurance reform, it's a pretty lame, and sad rebuttal.

Posted by: JPRS | August 7, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"...are you one of those people who thinks Obama is a socialist?"

Well, I was unsure at first. I tried not to let his 20 year association with Rev Wright sway me too much...or his close friendship with Bill Ayers (he's more of an anarchist, but I digress...) but then Obama name Van Horn, a self-avowed Communist, to be his 'green czar', a creative new post (has 32 czars now)that requires no confirmation from Congress as a cabinet post would. Senator Byrd wrote a letter to Obama about this terrible power grab with the czars.
Anyway, having communists in the highest levels of government along with all of the other mounting evidence....it's getting harder and harder to say "no" to that question.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | August 7, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Correction: Van Jones is the communist czar.

Makes you want to know what the backgrounds of the other 'czars' are, doesn't it...since there is no confirmation. Jones would never have been confirmed by any congress including this one.

It's a disgrace....and it's Obama's fault.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | August 7, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

matthawke,

Glen Beck may claim to be a "libertarian," but I remember him saying a couple years ago that his favorite politician was Rick Santorum from PA. Santorum pretty much epitomizes one core element of Bush Republicanism (e.g. the strong social conservative strain; not exactly "live and let live" libertarianism).

A few of these protesters may not be Republicans. But I'd wager 100 to 1 that about 95 percent of them voted for McCain or George W in recent election cycles.

Also groups that are exclusively aligned with the GOP have been involved at an organizational level.

Posted by: JPRS | August 7, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

AnanSudanomos:

"But is also true that Obama ran and won on a campaign where health care reform with a strong public plan option figured among his core two or three issues."

It's easy to garner support for broad principles; the devil is in the details. I, for example, agree with most of Obama's reform goals.

"We also know from numerous polls that a clear majority support a public option."

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure to which polls you are referring.

"Indeed, for a number of years now there has been a slight majority in favor of a single payer plan for reform."

It's easy to find support for various programs in the abstract. But support in polls tends to fall off dramatically when the costs become clear. IMO, that is part of the explanation for the slide in support for the Dem.'s reform plans.

"The fact that support for the present plan is slipping is only evidence that the efforts of unscrupulous liars and their useful idiots are paying off."

We'll have to disagree then. That attitude is not likely to win you many converts.

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

JPRS:

"None of these people though are coming to these meetings to have a debate -- they are simply coming to these meetings to shut down the discussion."

My impression is that most are coming to voice their opposition to the bills winding their way through Congress, not to debate the finer points of health care reform or disrupt the meetings. Some attendees plainly *are* spoiling for a fight but, from what I can tell, not all of these hail from the opposition.

"If this is their answer to health care, health insurance reform, it's a pretty lame, and sad rebuttal."

Given the Dem's large majorities in Congress the Republicans' only leverage comes from united opposition. Most of the debate in Washington, afterall, is between and among factions of Democrats. The Democratic leadership has made it plain they're only looking to peel off a few of the more liberal Republicans but, failing that, are prepared to pass a bill without any Republican support even using the reconciliaiton process, if necessary. That's not true bipartisanship.

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

tbass1,

The sources of opposition arguing for the status quo seem to be largely based on misinformation. People are opposed to euthanasia? OK, so are supporters of health care reform (e.g. in a system where thousands die simply because they have no insurance, or are underinsured). Euthanasia is no where to be found in any of the current bills before Congress. People are opposed to a "government takeover" of health care. OK, well none of the bills even comes close to taking over the current system. At best we're going to get a bill that expands coverage while marginally controlling costs. Most people will find no change in their coverage under the existing health care/health insurance reform measures.

I agree with you that the main debates are happening between Democrats. I also think the notion of bipartisanship is over-rated. We aren't in a political environment where there's a 50-50 split between parties. The Dems command decisive majorities in both houses. You have to go back 30 years to find a partisan split that resembles the current composition for the Senate. The president won election with a substantial majority and a landslide in the electoral vote count. The GOP is attempting to stymie reforms at the committee level, but if it comes to using the budget reconciliation process to pass needed reforms, so be it.

Posted by: JPRS | August 7, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

JPRS -

"Euthanasia is no where to be found in any of the current bills before Congress."

Not by name, but subsidized "end of life counseling" sessions are included as a benefit in H.R. 3200. Whatever the merits of the benefit it was predictable that such a provision would raise concerns when considered within the context of a President pushing h/c reform primarily as a means of cost control.

"People are opposed to a "government takeover" of health care. OK, well none of the bills even comes close to taking over the current system."

"Lawmakers of both parties agree on the need to rein in private insurance companies by banning underwriting practices that have prevented millions of Americans from obtaining affordable insurance. Insurers would, for example, have to accept all applicants and could not charge higher premiums because of a person's medical history or current illness."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/01/health/policy/01health.html?_r=2&hp

The above reforms would not represent a "takeover" but they would effectively alter the private health insurance market beyond all recognition - ending the primary insurance functions of underwriting and the pooling of risk. The bill would effectively turn health insurance companies into social insurance program administrators - in short, another government transfer program.

"The president won election with a substantial majority and a landslide in the electoral vote count."

The presidential election was not a national referendum on health care reform. People voted for him for lots of reasons, probably to fix the economy foremost. Also, the electoral college is designed to make relatively small differences in the popular vote appear as a landslide. Obama garnered 53% of the popular vote against 47% for McCain. That's certainly significant, especially by recent standards, but it's not large.

"I agree with you that the main debates are happening between Democrats. I also think the notion of bipartisanship is over-rated...but if it comes to using the budget reconciliation process to pass needed reforms, so be it."

That being your attitude, one that many Democrats (including the party leadership) seem to share, I don't feel you're in a position to criticize the Republicans for obstruction. Under the circumstances that's the best outcome they can manage. From their standpoint no bill is preferable to those under consideration. There probably is possible to fashion a compromise bill that would garner significant Republican support but that's not what the Dem leadership is trying for.

Posted by: tbass1 | August 7, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

The irony of the teabagging astroturf protests is that the guy who was hurt in the scuffle in St. Louis has had to set up a fund to collect money for his medical bills since he was just laid off and has no health care (TPM report this morning). Is it just me or is this not incredibly ironic..

Posted by: scott1959 | August 10, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

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